Monday, November 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Farewell to a dinosaur

Dh & I recently joined the 21st century: we got a new 48-inch flat-screen, high-definition LED television set. I'd resisted getting one for quite a while;  our 12-year-old, 32" Sony TV worked perfectly well and I saw no reason to get a new one.  (Not having kids, we might not be as susceptible to peer pressure as our parent friends are -- although we took plenty of ribbing from BIL, who's probably bought three flat-screen TVs in the time that we've had our Sony.)

Having finally succumbed to the charms of the flat screen, the question became what to do with our old dinosaur of a set. It had a flat screen (of sorts), but it was probably one of the last batch of picture-tube TV sets to be made, and even though it works perfectly well, NOBODY wants these things anymore. Our nephews just laughed when we asked if they wanted it;  most of the local charities I checked won't take picture tube TVs.

Dh & stepBIL lugged the set out to the garage shortly after the conclusion of the painting project, with the idea of hauling it to the dump along with the other garbage generated by the recent renovations. StepBIL warned us, however, that the dump charges according to weight (they weigh your car as you arrive and then again when you leave). This was a BIG TV -- just 32" wide but, with the picture tube, probably almost 32" deep.  I think it weighed at least 100 lbs; stepBIL is a strong guy, & together, he and dh were struggling to carry it out of the house.

Tomorrow is garbage day & dh decided he would try setting it out at the curb. We weren't sure the garbage guys would take it (would they even be able to pick it up??), but there are a lot of local scavengers who drive around the night before garbage pickup, scouting for treasures, and we hoped one of them might take it. Dh managed to slide it down the driveway to the curb all by himself (!), and there it sat for a few hours, looking forlorn.

A little while ago, dh looked out the front window: "Hey, someone's trying to pick up the TV!"  And (surprise!) he was struggling. Dh didn't want to let the guy drive away empty-handed (!), so he pulled on his shoes and went outside & offered to help the guy. "This s*** is heavy!" was the man's bemused remark. He went away happy with his find;  dh was ecstatic that we finally got rid of the thing.

It still sort of bothers me that something that still worked perfectly well is probably going to be sold for scrap -- but on the other hand, it's out of the house and not our problem anymore.  And our new 48" set is so thin and light, I can probably pick it up with one hand.  ;)

(We still have a small 12-inch picture tube set -- an 18-year-old Panasonic. It was in our bedroom but we rarely watched it anymore, so since the paint job, it's been sitting in the basement. But that one's much easier to take out to the curb, if/when we decide to part with it.)

What sort of TV set do you have and how old is it? When did you get rid of your picture tube set, or do you still have one? Do you share my guilt over getting rid of stuff that may not be the latest & greatest, but otherwise works perfectly well??   

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"N or M?" by Agatha Christie

I'm on an Agatha Christie kick lately. ;)  The second "Partners in Crime" novel by Christie to be filmed for television was "N or M?" and, as usual, I wanted to try to get the book read before part one of the TV adaptation was broadcast earlier this week on Bravo here in Canada. I started it just before part one aired, and finished it a few days later. Parts two & three of the TV show are still to come. :)

"N or M?" is another adventure featuring Tommy & Tuppence -- the same couple from "The Secret Adversary." "The Secret Adversary" took place in post-WWI Britain; "N or M" picks up some 20 years later. It's 1940, the Second World War is in full swing, and Britain is expecting a Nazi invasion at any time. Speculation is rampant about "the Fifth Column" and German spies lurking everywhere.

The Beresfords are now a long-married, middle-aged couple and the parents of young adult twins (a boy & a girl, both involved in the war). Their old friend Mr. Carter enlists Tommy's help:  British intelligence believes there are two Nazi spies operating out of a quiet seaside boarding house, laying the groundwork for an imminent invasion of Britain.  Who among the staff and guests are they?  (Of course, Tuppence finds out what he's up to and gets in on the action...!)

By the end of the book, I had figured out the identity of at least one of the spies. But, in true Christie fashion, there were still enough twists & turns and surprises to keep things interesting. The ending, with Tommy & Tuppence out for dinner & dancing with their adult children, is rather amusing, although beware! -- there is a groaner of an ALI angle to the story at the 11th hour. :p

As I said, I've only seen the first of three parts of the TV adaptation of "N or M?"  As with "The Secret Adversary," the producers seem to have taken a lot of liberties with Christie's story:  the action has shifted to the Cold War years of the 1950s, and instead of fending off a looming invasion, the Beresfords are now trying to locate a nuclear bomb. Somehow, it's not quite as exciting as a looming Nazi invasion.

Unfortunately, it seems that others agree with my assessment: "Partners in Crime" has been cancelled by the BBC, after just these two adaptations. It's been fun (re)reading the adventures of Tommy & Tuppence, though, and I may still carry on with the remaining volumes, even if there's no longer an impending TV episode to serve as a reading incentive. :)

*** *** ***

Side note: I started reading this book shortly after the events that unfolded in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13th.  Among the story's prime suspects is a young German man, a refugee from Nazi persecution whose (non-Jewish but critical of Hitler) family is now in a concentration camp. Imagine my reaction when I started reading & found a few exchanges like this:
"...You take my word for it, this refugee business is dangerous. If I had my way I'd intern the lot of them. Safety first."  
"A bit drastic, perhaps."  
"Not at all. War's war. And I've got my suspicions of Master Carl... He's a Nazi -- that's what he is -- a Nazi." 
As the French say, "Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose." (The more things change, the more they stay the same...).

(There's also a few shots against the Irish throughout the book. Full disclosure: my family background is 1/4 Irish. ;)  )

*** *** ***

This was book #25 that I've read to date in 2015.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Are you a bereaved parent living in Ontario?

In the "it's about time" category, Mike Colle, MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence (in Toronto), introduced a private member's bill (Bill 141) this week -- the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, Research and Care Act, 2015.

If passed, this bill would require the Ontario Ministry of Health to undertake research on pregnancy loss/infant deaths, in order to establish & expand counselling programs to bereaved mothers & families, and to undertake comprehensive, wide-ranging research into the best practices available in risk reduction and causes of pregnancy loss & death. It would also establish October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in Ontario (something I thought had already happened several years ago).

The National Post published a great article yesterday about this new (and long overdue) initiative. In addition to mentioning that one in three women will lose a pregnancy during her lifetime (which I have heard before), it quoted another figure that floored me: 37,000 parents in Ontario lose a baby at some point during their pregnancy every year. 37,000!! That's enough to fill a good-sized town. Assuming two parents per child, that's about 18,000+ lost pregnancies. In Ontario alone. Every. Single. Year.

That's a lot of grief and loss, people. :(

As the article states:
Many of [these parents] struggle with a system that often lacks support and training, as well as families, friends and even health care providers who don’t know what to say. Then their grief is compounded by a lack of answers and insufficient research to provide them.
You can bet that if 37,000 parents were losing their children each year to automobile accidents or playground accidents or airplane crashes, there would be a huge public outcry, and swift action would be taken to investigate why this was happening and what could be done to remedy the situation.

Why should things be any different just because those children died before or shortly after birth?

Those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss know how badly an initiative like this is needed.  But if this bill is to be passed, public support will be critical.  You and your families can show your support by:
  • signing and submitting petitions to Mike Colle's office (here's a link to a sample petition).
  • sharing this news on social media and asking your friends & family to share and show their support. (I don't often post about loss-related matters on Facebook, but I have been sharing the heck out of this since I learned about it.)
  • calling, writing or emailing your local MPP, the Minister of Health, and the Premier. (I just emailed them all tonight. I can't remember the last time I contacted a politician about an issue I felt strongly about. But this, of all issues, is worth the effort.)
I know this is a taboo subject. I (still) find it difficult to talk about publicly, even after 17 years. (Blogging to strangers, though -- well, that's different, lol.)  But it's just too important NOT to take action when we have this opportunity to make a real difference.

Let's get this done!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Birthday girl

Saturday night, dh & I walked into a local pizza restaurant for dinner. It was early (late afternoon) & there was a birthday party going on -- a table full of giggling pre-teen girls and pink & purple balloons.

That's when it hit me.

Saturday (Nov. 14th) was my original due date in 1998. In other words, it might have been, could have been, should have been, Katie's birthday. Her 17th birthday. It was written in my datebook, but I hadn't really thought about it all day, until I saw the balloons & heard the giggles. (Bad Mommy!!)

After the waitress took our order, I told dh. He looked sad, & we held hands across the table as the girls sang "happy birthday" to the birthday girl on the other side of the room.

It was a weird feeling. Ten or 15 years ago, I probably would have been devastated -- both by my forgetting & by being confronted with a little girl's birthday party on this day of all days.

But I just felt sad, and a bit wistful, thinking of everything we've missed out on these past 17 years, and how different things might have been.

#MicroblogMondays: Paris

Dh & I had dinner on Friday night with BIL & SIL at a restaurant near their home, then went back to their house for coffee, where we turned on the TV and learned about what had happened in Paris.

Scary and disturbing news any time, but -- thanks to good old Facebook -- even more so, because we knew that two of dh & BIL's cousins, their spouses and a few of their friends were in Paris that day -- they'd just arrived the day before for a few days of fun and milestone birthday celebrations, posting giddy shots of plane tickets and wine glasses from the airport lounge.

I immediately went on SIL's computer to check my Facebook feed. (Times like this are when Facebook can be a really good thing.) Thank goodness, one of them had posted just minutes before to say they were all together and safe. They had been on a dinner cruise, completely oblivious to what was going on, until news filtered through. They had to WALK back to where they were staying -- because everything, including transit, was shut down -- spent a sleepless night huddled together in one room, and managed to get a flight home the next day.

Paris sometimes seems very far away, but needless to say, the events of this past weekend hit just a little too close to home for comfort.  We are thankful that our family members returned home safely -- but we're also all too conscious that many, many others did not.  :(

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Punk rock reading

(Me, as a 19-year-old university student in my dorm room, going to a punk rock social (dance), February 1980, and trying to look appropriately sullen & smouldering, lol. You can't see it, but I'm wearing safety pins in my ears -- carefully sterilized in rubbing alcohol (I wasn't THAT much of a punk...!) -- instead of earrings. My sister was visiting for the weekend & took this photo with her new Nikon SLR camera, & there must have been some static on the lens, because there is this cool lightning burst effect happening all around me -- which seemed kind of appropriate in the context of the event, lol.  Photo & caption previously used in this post from June 24, 2009: "Pat Benatar, I wasn't.")

Around the time I was in high school in the late 1970s, with my boy-band phase on the wane, we started hearing about a strange new movement in the British music and fashion world called punk rock. I asked my British penpal about it, and she obliged by sending me a tape with the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" on it.

"Is this a joke?" I remember one of my friends saying at the time. It didn't sound much like music to us. It was raw and angry and dischordant. (Of course, we'd been listening to Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles and Steely Dan (not to mention the aforementioned boy bands, lol)... the Sex Pistols were like a bucket of cold water in the face, by comparison.)  The musicians and their followers LOOKED angry, with their spiky hairdos and spiky jewelry, smudged makeup and torn clothing held together with safety pins. It was scary -- but fascinating at the same time, particularly to us teenagers from conformist smalltown Prairie Canada. (How conformist, you ask?  As an example: it was a Very Big Deal to wear anything other than jeans to school or one of our school dances. "Dressing up" meant wearing your corduroy pants ("cords") instead of denim -- and you'd only do it if at least two of your friends agreed to do it too, lol.) 

Needless to say, the Sex Pistols never got much airplay on the radio stations I listened to. By the time I graduated from high school & entered university, though, I was enjoying, if not hard core punk rock, then its slightly more palatable cousin, New Wave. Among the bands I listened to at that time -- late 1970s/early 1980s -- was the Pretenders, fronted by a girl (!!) -- a tough looking chick named Chrissie Hynde.  I assumed she was British, but it turned out she was American -- from Ohio (as in "My City Was Gone" -- "Ay, oh, way to go, Ohio..."). 

Now in her early 60s, Hynde has written a memoir, "Reckless," which I snapped up on sale the week it came out in September.

Hynde grew up in post-WWII Akron, Ohio, and vividly describes her childhood there. She fell in love with rock & roll at an early age -- her first kiss came from Jackie Wilson at one of his concerts. Mitch Ryder, David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Paul Butterfield and Iggy Pop were among her musical heroes.

After high school, she went to Kent State University, ostensibly to study art, but mostly to party. (Yes, THAT Kent State -- and she was there on May 4, 1970, when the National Guard opened fire on a protest gathering, killing four students.)  Hynde had no ambitions and no idea what she wanted from life, except to have a good time.

While there's some sex in the book (including a violent encounter with a group of bikers that's become the source of much controversy, not only for what she's written about it but her subsequent comments and media reaction) -- and certainly rock & roll -- the one thing the book has in spades is drugs. Lots and lots of drugs, including copious amounts of alcohol. (Hynde admits she waited until both her parents were dead before writing a memoir, because she didn't want them reading the truth about what she had been doing.)  There are some colourful stories about her drug-fuelled escapades, but it does get kind of monotonous after a while. Different times...!

For me, the best part of the book began once Hynde moved to England in 1973, became part of the fledgling punk scene and, eventually, formed and found success with The Pretenders. It's fun reading her observations about the differences between American & British culture, and her encounters with punk rockers like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. (There's an amusing story about how she almost married first Johnny Rotten and then Sid Vicious, primarily as a way of solving her visa problems.) 

Unfortunately, she doesn't get to England until about 3/4 of the way through the book. The story of the all-too-brief rise and fall of The Pretenders rushes by all too quickly, and the book ends abruptly after the drug-related deaths of band members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon (with whom Hynde was once romantically involved). 

Bizarrely, I felt torn between feeling glad that I'd finally come to the end of a very long, convoluted, meandering journey, and wanting to read more. It's a flawed book, but still an interesting read, and I don't regret having spent the time on reading it. In retrospect, though, I probably could have waited for the paperback. ;)

*** *** ***

A few chapters into "Reckless," I had a pedicure appointment. I didn't want to lug a heavy hardcover along with me, so I slipped my Kobo e-reader into my purse & selected a book that someone had recommended to me as a memoir that included some ALI themes -- "Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys" by Viv Albertine.  (And I never noticed until I added in the photos of both book covers how similar the poses are!!)

Can I say I had absolutely no idea who Viv Albertine was? None. Nada. (How about you?) From the blurb on the back of the paperbook version I saw at the bookstore, I gathered she had been involved with the punk movement in Britain in the late 1970s in some way. Sounded good to me (and anyways, the title was irresistible). 

(There are some books that I feel compelled to buy simply because of the title alone. One of my favourite novel titles (I bought the book but have yet to read it) is "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons."  Isn't that great??)

Turns out Albertine's book was a good companion volume to Chrissie Hynde's (and, actually, a better book overall).  The two women knew each other in London in the '70s and hung out with many of the same people. Hynde turns up in Albertine's book and vice versa (although the appearances in each other's stories are strictly small cameos).

As a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Albertine was a fan of John Lennon & The Beatles, The Kinks, and later David Bowie, Marc Bolan and, later still, Patti Smith. At art school (because -- like Hynde -- she had no other ideas about what she wanted to do with her life), she met Mick Jones, who later became part of The Clash and wrote "Train in Vain" about their relationship. Like Chrissie Hynde, she was close to Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, and knew many other key figures of the period, including Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, whose shop, Sex, was the source of many key pieces in the trend-setting outfits Albertine describes in loving detail  (the "Clothes" part of the title).

Hanging around musicians so much, it was probably inevitable that she would eventually become one herself -- even though there were very few women rockers as role models in those days, let alone punk rockers. "For the first time, I felt like myself," she writes about lugging her newly purchased electric guitar home on the bus. Never mind that she couldn't play a note at first, although she eventually developed her own unique style. Initially, she joined a band called The Flowers of Romance (with Sid Vicious, pre-Sex Pistols);  later, she became lead guitarist of an influential all-girl punk band called The Slits.

After The Slits disbanded in 1982, Albertine went to film school, wrote and directed TV shows and movies, and created sculptures. She met and married a man she refers to as The Biker (and later The Husband) and went to live with him in the country. In her late 30s and desperate to have a child, she sold most of her keepsakes from the punk era (including letters and other things Sid Vicious had given her) to pay for IVF treatments. Eventually, she did have a daughter, but not before enduring a great deal of loss and heartbreak.

Sample passage about loss & infertility (from a chapter titled "Hell"):
I am wildly, insanely bug-eyed crazy with grief. I don't want to live. I think of ways to kill myself. Throw myself under this passing car? Jump off Chelsea Bridge and drown in the Thames? Or just lie face down in this puddle and stop breathing? Poor, poor Hubby, he is hitched to a raving lunatic. But he is my rock, solid, grounded, steady. I love him so much that life is just about still worth living. If it's just going to be me and him, so be it. 
We keep on going to the Lister [clinic]. I keep on trying to get pregnant, months turn into years, fail after fail after fail. I am not a person. I'm a shadow, creeping along walls, quivering along pavements, my body itching, my mind wild, my patience stretched tight, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. I can't stand to look at pregnant women. I hate them. I can't even bear pregnant friends -- I stop seeing them. If anyone walks too close to me in the street or at a bus stop, I want to kill them...  
Lying on the doctor's table, week after week, my feet hoisted up in stirrups, I transport my mind outside of my body: I'm not here, it's the woman who is longing for a baby who's lying down there, legs wide apart with a man she's never met before sticking his arm right up inside her.
(Is that not one of the most completely raw, honest descriptions you've ever read of infertility & loss and what it can do to you? And that's just a sample.)

By midlife, numbed by the turmoil she had lived through and the minutae of suburban domesticity, her marriage falling apart, she entered into an emotional, long-distance quasi-affair with the actor Vincent Gallo. The relationship ended badly, but it reignited her creative spirit and gave her new courage to begin to write and play music again, both in a reunited version of the Slits as well as a solo artist. Would you have the courage to not only pick up the guitar again in your 50s, after 25 years away from it, and sing your own compositions at open mic nights at local bars??

Albertine, now 60, has led a rather messy life, and her book includes graphic descriptions, not only of her pregnancy losses, infertility treatments, abortion and struggle with cervical cancer, but also fellatio, crabs, her periods and other bodily functions. There were passages in this brutally honest book where I winced or cringed. But the more I read, the more I grew to admire this woman for her everything she has endured and survived, and I very much enjoyed the book overall. It's not just about being a punk rocker;  it's about growing up & being a woman in the latter half of the 20th century. "Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys" won several awards in the U.K. and was nominated for more, and deservedly so, in my opinion.

After reading this, I looked up some YouTube videos, both of The Slits (interesting & energetic, but dated) as well as Albertine's more recent solo stuff, which I quite liked, and also some interviews. Check out "Confessions of a MILF," below (her old love, Mick Jones, plays guitar on the track, although he's not in the video):

*** *** ***

Speaking of Patti Smith, her latest book, "M Train," was released while I was reading these two books. Like Chrissie Hynde's book, it was on sale for $25, and like Chrissie Hynde's book, I couldn't resist, lol.  I read & reviewed Smith's first memoir, "Just Kids," here.

And then a week later, Elvis Costello's memoir appeared on the bookstore shelves -- "Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink," which is getting rave reviews. So I have plenty of reading material to last me for quite a while to come (as if I didn't already, lol). 

*** *** ***

These were books #23 & #24 that I've read to date in 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Golden Girls revisited

The Globe & Mail is running an excellent in-depth series this week about "The Boomer Shift" --  the baby boom generation (of which I am a tail-end member), aging and retirement. I've been watching with interest to see whether the issue of aging without children would be addressed -- so far, it hasn't.

However, one of today's articles was this: "Meet the new Golden Girls (and guys): How boomers are coming up with creative living arrangements."

For me, this is old news:  as I wrote on this blog five years ago, living together in a "Golden Girls" house has long been a private semi-joke among my longtime childless living message board chums. It's been fun to see this idea gaining more currency in the media lately, and not just among those of us without children -- although of course, creative living arrangements where residents commit to looking out for one another would be particularly ideal for those of us who are aging without offspring.

What do you think? Does the idea of a "Golden Girls" communal living arrangement of some sort appeal to you?