Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's always something...

I was horrified to read a news item this week that Gilda's Club in Madison, Wisconsin, is changing its name -- to the far catchier (NOT) “The Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin.” Because, they claim, young people today don't know who "Gilda" was.

This is just WRONG on so many levels.

First of all, if you don't know Gilda -- you should. (Whatever happened to curiosity? -- if you don't know who Gilda was -- ask!  Find out!!  Look her up on YouTube or Google -- isn't that what the Internet is for??)

Gilda's Clubs are named for Gilda Radner, an original cast member of Saturday Night Live from the 1970s. She left SNL in 1980, and died in 1989 at age 42 from ovarian cancer.

I was 14 when SNL made its debut in 1975. Today, almost (gulp) 40 years later, SNL is something of an institution, but back then, it was original, iconoclastic. It was like nothing we had seen before. In those days, before VCRs, kids would still show up to school on Monday mornings repeating lines from the skits they'd seen on the weekend. Parties would come to a standstill on Saturday nights at 10:30 as we'd all gather around the TV set to watch Gilda, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, et al, along with musical guests that you just didn't get to see anywhere else. 

Without Gilda (and the two other women in the original cast, Jane Curtin -- later of "Kate & Allie" and "Third Rock from the Sun" -- & Laraine Newman), there would be no Tina Fey, Amy Poehler or Kristen Wiig. 

Gilda said that “Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to." In 1991, a few years after her death, her husband, the actor Gene Wilder, and several of her friends founded the first Gilda's Clubs -- a place where people living with cancer, their friends and families, could meet to support each other in a homelike setting, free of charge.

Apparently, a few years ago, Gilda's Clubs merged with a similar support organization, and they are now under pressure to "rebrand."

*** *** ***


If you apply the same principle, I would think that institutions like Carnegie Hall & Rockefeller Plaza are due for a renaming, because really, these days, who knows or cares who Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller were?

Does anyone know who Susan G. Komen was? 

And so on.

As Elissa Freeman noted on,
"As news of the name drop gathered steam over the twittersphere, many wondered if we should also change the name of Martin Luther King Day to some more modern African American man who helped change the course of history? And since Christ hasn’t been around for a couple of centuries now, perhaps we should rename that big celebration we have on December 25th too?"
(Some would argue that we're doing that already, with the trend towards saying, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." But, I digress...)

*** *** ***

Quite frankly, I am sick & tired of names being constantly changed on me. Too many things today are being named for corporations, not people -- and then when the corporations get bought by another corporation, or the corporation declines to renew its naming rights to a certain property -- the names associated with the company change.

Here in Toronto, one of the more famous examples is a theatre that was, when it was built in 1960, originally named "The O'Keefe Centre." (Admittedly, after a brewery -- which has long since ceased to exist, at least by that name.) Suddenly, after almost 40 years, it became "The Hummingbird Centre" in 1996.  The WHAT? (A software company, I think.) OK.

I was JUST getting used to calling it the Hummingbird Centre when -- whoops! -- it became the Sony Centre in 2007. It is still called that (or at least, it was, last time I checked). 

When Toronto opened its brand-new, then-state-of-the-art domed stadium back in 1989, part of the hoopla surrounding its debut was a naming contest. The eventual winner was "SkyDome," with a fancy logo to go along with it (the capital "D" open like the roof to let the sun in).  Everyone knew what the SkyDome was. The name instantly evokes an image.

But in 2005, the stadium was sold and renamed after the new owner -- a communications conglomerate -- and now it's known as the Rogers Centre. (I keep wondering what the original naming contest winner thinks of that.) The adjacent SkyDome Hotel is now called the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel.  How are people supposed to know THAT's the hotel where you can watch the Blue Jays play from your hotel room??

I hate giving people directions in downtown Toronto these days, because half the time, I am naming landmarks that no longer exist, at least by those particular names. ("Turn right at BCE Place... oops, Brookfield Place... walk until you come to the Movenpick Marche Restaurant -- wait, Richtree -- no, come to think of it, it's Marche again...")  When Eatons department store finally drew its last breath, there was some question as to whether the Toronto Eaton Centre would retain its name (so far, so good...knocking wood) -- and every now & then, I hear rumbles that the iconic CN Tower, perhaps this city's best-known landmark, may soon be called something entirely different. Bah!!

Anyway -- you get the idea.

*** *** ***


Mary Elizabeth Williams, a writer on Salon who is living with cancer and supports her local Gilda's Club, made this important point:
"...there’s a reason that organizations are named after people. There’s a reason that a name resonates in the heart of someone facing a disease in a way that a bland, Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin, does not. It’s because it makes it personal and intimate. It creates the unique and powerful and so necessary experience of identification and empathy. It sure as hell says to people with cancer, “You’re not forgotten,” which is actually a very big deal for a whole lot of us going through it. [Emphasis mine.] My kids certainly didn’t know who Gilda was when we started going to the clubhouse. They do now. And they love her. They love her because she’s real to them. She’s there smiling from a picture on the wall when they walk in. She’s there for all of us in the club, a beacon of laughter and warmth."
This really resonated with me, particularly as childless-not-by-choice woman -- because if there is one thing that we fear (well, one thing among others...!) it's being forgotten. :( 

Gilda was "one of us."  She did not have children. She and her husband were trying to conceive;  she had two miscarriages and was going through fertility treatment when she was diagnosed. 

Was Gilda's cancer caused, or exacerbated, by the powerful fertility drugs she was taking? Nobody knows for sure. A link between fertility drugs & cancer has yet to be definitively proven. As it turned out, Gilda's grandmother, aunt and cousin all died of ovarian cancer, so genetics were not in her favour either. But I have to admit, stories like hers (and there are too many of them for my comfort) are one reason why I abandoned treatment when I did. And why I faithfully keep my annual checkup appointments with Dr. Ob-gyn.

Gilda was not just a very funny woman, but a wise and thoughtful one too. Read her memoir, "It's Always Something." One of my favourite quotes ever, which appears on the right-hand sidebar of this blog, is taken from that book. Gilda took the lemons that life had handed her and made some delicious lemonade in the time she had left.  "While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die -- whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness," she said.

*** *** ***

Gilda's Club Toronto has announced that it will not be changing its name, citing Gilda's still-strong ties to this city. Bravo!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Recent Sunday afternoons at the movies

  • Dh & I love going to the movies -- as opposed to watching them on video/TV etc. (although we'll do that too) -- and we've had the good luck to see a string of really great movies lately, one after the other (after a particularly long dry spell earlier this fall).
  • Our favourite time to go the movies: Sunday afternoons. Generally cheaper and (if you go to the first showing) not so crowded. We love popcorn for lunch. : )
  • First was "Argo," directed by & starring Ben Affleck -- based on a true story well known to most Canadians of a certain age (ahem) as "The Canadian Caper." It has been hugely Hollywoodized, and the critical role played by the Canadians was downgraded to make Ben's CIA agent look like more of a hero (grrrr)... but it's still a great story, well filmed, with great performances all round. 
  • Next came "Skyfall," the new James Bond movie with (be still my beating heart) Daniel Craig returning as Bond. I've talked to several of my younger coworkers who have never seen a Bond movie (!!) & aren't quite sure what all the fuss is about. I tell them you'll appreciate this movie much more if you see a couple of the older Bond movies first -- there are a few "in jokes" & references tailormade for loyal fans, including a couple of big ones right at the very end that I guessed just before the reveal. (And you simply can't take it all too very seriously.) (Craig's Bond is far more serious than, say Roger Moore toward the end of his stint -- although there is more humour in this movie than in the previous two Bond flicks starring Craig, and that's welcome. Seeing him adjust his cufflinks right after landing on top of a moving train had me cracking up.)
  • As an aside -- I think my favourite moment of the entire London Olympics was the introduction of the best-ever Bond girl (i.e., Her Majesty). ; )
  • The first Bond movie I can remember seeing is "Diamonds are Forever" -- the closest movie theatre at the time was in a town 40 miles away & my mother took me & my sister. I told her this recently & she was horrified -- "Really??! With all that sex and violence?? And you were how old??" (About 10 or 12.)
  • Since then, I've seen many Bond movies over the years, old & new, on the big & small screens. My favourite Bond was always Sean Connery, but I have to admit Craig is a very close second. I had my doubts when he was first announced for the role, but after about 10 minutes of "Casino Royale," I turned to dh and whispered, "OK. I get it."   I always thought Pierce Brosnan would be great for the role, long before it became his (longtime "Remington Steele" fan here...), and was sad when it ultimately didn't work out.
  • Anyway -- most recently, we saw "Lincoln." We went early on a Sunday afternoon, as usual -- and it was PACKED.  Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing, as usual, but all the performances are first rate. I have loved David Strathairn in everything I've ever seen him in, going waaaayyyyy back to "The Days & Nights of Molly Dodd" -- and Tommy Lee Jones is wonderful. The final scene he's in is a kicker ; )  reminding us that most politics is personal.
  • We are reminded that not only was Lincoln a master politician, but he & his wife Mary (played by Sally Field) -- so often depicted as a psychotic mess -- were also bereaved parents, wrestling with the loss of one son and the potential loss of another (oldest son Robert, who desperately wants to enlist in the Union Army). There is a scene, midway through the movie, where they confront each other about their grief and their different ways of coping with their loss that had me in tears.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Moms rule." (Tell me about it...)

Almost exactly one year ago to the day (I checked), I posted a diatribe (& felt MUCH better after doing so...!) about a marketing brochure I had received from my cellphone company, proclaiming: "Moms Rock. Superphones help them roll."

As a non-mom -- and NOT by first choice, either -- you can just imagine how that made me feel. (Well, you don't have to imagine. Just go read the post.) ; ) 

I do not have a smartphone. (I barely use the four-year-old non-smartphone I have now.) Every now & then, I will admit that I do think about getting one. But do you think that getting a pitch like this in the mail is going to make me any likelier to rush right out to the nearest phone store?? (Hmmmm.... what do you think???)

Anyway -- guess what? It's now one year later and -- it's baaaaaccck!! Actually, not the exact same brochure -- it's Annoying Marketing Pitch: The Sequel!

Last year's pitch was "Moms Rock."  This year's brochure arrived in the mail today, addressed to me, and the cover reads:  "Moms rule. And deserve amazing phones that make every day easier."

Inside: "Get a phone that works as hard as you do."

Dear Bell:

Please get it through your thick skull:  I am NOT A MOM. Yes, I am a woman of a certain age -- but contrary to what some people may think or believe, "woman" does not necessarily equal "mother".  In fact, one in five adult women today will NEVER BE MOTHERS -- some of us by choice, some of us by circumstance, some of us because of infertility &/or pregnancy/infant loss.  We may not have kids -- but I'm willing to bet that most of us do have cellphones (and likely more disposable income than your average mom, who has kids to clothe, feed and educate). That's a lot of potential clients you are not just ignoring, but possibly insulting, even hurting, with this sort of mom-centric targeted marketing.

I may not be a mom. But I like to think that I, too, "deserve" amazing phones that make every day easier. I may not have kids, and I don't discount the fact that mothers work damned hard and have "busy lives," as your brochure notes -- but believe me, I work damned hard and am pretty busy some days too.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lori's Favourite Things : )

Stirrup Queen Mel came up with a list of her favourite things (a la Oprah) & asked us for our own favourite things lists.

(I always regarded Oprah's annual My Favourite Things show with a certain mixture of fascination and horror... on the one hand, she did showcase some cool stuff, and sure, who wouldn't want to be in the audience??!  On the other hand, the continuous screaming and the naked greed I saw in some of those women's faces appalled me. I enjoyed the show more when she targeted certain groups she thought could use a boost -- I remember military wives one year and teachers another.)

Anyway, off the top of my head, here's some of the stuff I am loving right now:
  • Burnt Sugar fudge -- the Seasalt Caramel version in the green package, in particular. ; ) I have confessed to my addiction before on this blog, here. Alas, I ran out of fudge earlier this fall and, despite scouring all the Chapters/Indigo stores in the area repeatedly, I have not been able to find any more. Apparently, within a 100 km/60 miles radius of my home, there are currently just 10 packages available at six stores, only one of them anywhere near me, and I can't get there until at least the weekend. *sigh* :( :( :(
  • Fresh Sugar lip treatment (available at Sephora): horrendously expensive... but feels soooooo good on the lips.... (Smells divine, too!) I invested in a lip brush to make the investment go even further -- there's still a lot of lip balm in the bottom of the tube even after you can't screw it up any further.
  • Sephora. When I walked into my first Sephora store -- the one at the Toronto Eaton Centre, shortly after it opened some years ago -- I felt like a kid let loose in a candy store. I called my sister and said, "I have found the motherlode!!" I don't buy a ton of stuff there (the above-mentioned lip balm, Smashbox primer, the occasional Clinique product -- although I generally buy most of my Clinique products from the same friendly saleslady I've been visiting at the Bay for the past 20 -- yes, 20!! -- years!), but I have sooooo much fun just looking. Just last week, they moved to an even bigger store in the mall, close to their old location. I can't wait to get there & see it.
  • Reitmans Comfort Pants (comfort fit, boot cut):  I resisted for a long, long time.... I thought pants should have a proper waistband and zipper.  But these are soooooo comfortable... the Petites length is perfect for my slightly-shorter-than-most legs... and the price is definitely right. : )
  • The Beatles: I loved the as a pre-schooler, and I still love them today. Their music never fail to put a smile on my face.
  • The Big Bang Theory: our favourite TV show right now. There was a recent episode where the girls kept beating the guys at games, and a round of Pictionary in particular that practically had me rolling off the couch laughing.
  • Sherlock & Dallas: my other favourite TV shows -- both sadly on hiatus at the moment, but Dallas is returning in January : ) and season 3 of Sherlock is currently in production in England.
  • Movies:  After what seemed like a very long drought, dh & I are three for three with the last few movies we've seen -- all of them really great:  Argo, Skyfall and Lincoln. I started a review post earlier this week and will publish it soon!
  • The Vinyl Cafe: Every Sunday at noon, dh scrambles eggs and I make toast while we listen to The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio. (The show can also be heard on some U.S. public radio stations and BBC Radio 7, as well as in podcast form.) The closest American equivalent I can come up with would be Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Sometimes taped in studio, sometimes broadcasts of concerts taped in locations across Canada, and hosted by the genial Stuart McLean, each Vinyl Cafe show is a mixture of storytelling, gentle humour, amazing music, mostly by lesser-known Canadian artists, and a celebration of all things Canadian, including the particular town or region hosting the concert being broadcast. I'd heard about the show for many years, but rarely listened to CBC Radio, period... until a few years ago, when my parents were driving us to the airport & we got listening to the Vinyl Cafe and a story about how Dave granted Morley's wish for snow for Christmas. I found myself absolutely howling with laughter (and I hadn't even heard the story of how Dave cooks the Christmas turkey yet -- a Canadian classic). Anyway, McLean tours widely throughout the year, and dh & I have seen him several times now, but there is something special about a Vinyl Cafe Christmas show. We are going again this year, and I can't wait. : )
  • Two examples of some of the great Canadian talent that I would likely not have heard about without the Vinyl Cafe (and that I would love to share with you -- particularly since you may not have heard of them, even if you ARE Canadian...!): first,  Reid Jamieson, a  multi-talented singer-songwriter, who will be perfoming at this year's Christmas shows. He did a entire album of Elvis covers for his girlfriend (now his wife), who is a big Elvis fan -- he's not an Elvis impersonator per se, but does the old songs in his own lovely way. Here's a video of him in Elvis mode:

  • Matt Andersen was the special guest at the first Vinyl Cafe Christmas show dh & I attended. This huge, shaggy-haired guy in sweatpants shuffled out onstage -- and then he struck the first chord on his guitar, threw back his head and started singing -- and immediately and completely blew everyone away. It was amazing -- I had chills. People were on their feet cheering, well before the last note. My sister's boyfriend is not easily impressed, but we were listening to the broadcast of the Christmas concert while we had brunch at my parents' house, & I saw the surprise in his eyes as the song began! Here's a link to a video of the first song we heard Matt sing (the video is actually from a Vinyl Cafe concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia -- probably from the same tour where dh & I saw him -- with the incomparable John Sheard & Dennis Pendrith backing him up).

    (He also sings a killer version of O Holy Night):

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The annual whine

It's a little earlier than usual for my annual "I hate November" whine.


Today was my due date in 1998.  I wasn't crying at my desk or anything like that -- but I did not feel like working (even though it's year end, and thus fairly busy hereabouts). I felt tired and spectacularly non-productive. :p 

(I went to Starbucks on my afternoon break for a tea latte to cheer myself up... and when I got back to my desk, I discovered it hadn't been sweetened. Steamed milk & sweetener are why I pay a gazillion dollars for these things, vs a plain old cup of tea anywhere else that I add milk & sugar to myself. Major sulk. :p )

Yes, in a different, more perfect world, I would be making plans/fighting with my teenager about what she'd like to do to celebrate her birthday (among other things, I'm sure).

Sometimes I feel a bit funny, mourning the baby who never was born -- the child who never drew a breath, let alone grew up --  the future I looked forward to that never came to pass. I know my grief is real and legitimate. But sometimes I feel like I'm still stuck back in 1998... while all around me, more and more of my peers are not just in the thick of parenting, but becoming grandparents (!!)(if they're not grandparents already). Dh's cousin (who is younger than both of us) regularly posts photos of her two adorable grandchildren on Facebook (a toddler and a newborn). A high school friend became a first-time grandmother this past week. Another is shopping for wedding dresses with her 20-something daughter.

Clearly, I missed the boat here. :p 

Since the time change, it has been dark when we leave the house for work in the morning, and dark by the time we return home. And although we were only on Hurricane Sandy's fringes & did not experience any damage in our area, the weather has been mostly grey and rainy and chilly. The trees have lost just about all of their leaves. Just a few weeks ago, the world was full of glorious fall colours. Today, everything looks dull, grey, dead.

Speaking of trees and leaves, we hired a tree service to remove a dead plum tree from the corner of our back yard and prune limbs from our next-door neighbours' trees that were beginning to scrape on the side walls and roof.  They came during the day while we were at work, and when we got home that night, even though it was almost completely dark, I could tell they had been there -- something about the shadowns of the trees against the sky looked different. I had to wait until the weekend daylight to see the full extent of their work -- and yikes, they really did PRUNE.  The barrenness, the open space where there had been leafy cover, was shocking (even more so since the Sandy had removed what few leaves were left).  I haven't heard anything from the neighbour;  hopefully, she doesn't mind. (Too much.)(Although we were within our rights to prune the branches that were overhanging our property.)

Since Halloween (and certainly since Remembrance Day this past weekend), Christmas displays, decorations & music have been coming out of the woodwork.  And while I love Christmas, and while I know it's only about 6 weeks away, it still feels too early. I don't feel the Christmas spirit yet.  And, as I've written before, while I love Christmas, because we're so busy at the office through early December, I don't always have time to enjoy it the way I'd like to. It just sort of adds to the melancholy.

I know, I tend to say much the same things, year after year. I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record..... (But hey, it's my party/blog, and I'll cry if I want to...)(You would cry too if it happened to you...)

Previous posts:

November 2011: (Not) the most wonderful time of the year :p
November 2010: Black Friday
November 2009: November blahs
November 2008: November again
November 2007: November: The cruellest month  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Odds & ends

  • What happened to October??
  • Suddenly, it's November. :p  The time changed, it gets dark a whole lot faster, it's a whole lot colder... and it's November. :p 
  • Stay tuned for my annual "I hate November" whine. ; ) (Despite the above, this isn't it, lol.)
  • The cold I had at the beginning of October returned with a vengeance at the end. :p  I think I am FINALLY almost over it. (Knocking wood.)
  • We took a week off in mid-October, and I managed to wrestle my Google Reader almost down to zero. It is now back up over the 1000+ mark. :p  Please bear with me as I catch up on my reading & commenting. (Again.) :p
  • On the bright side, while we did get some rain and a bit of wind (and while some people in the city lost power & trees), Hurricane Sandy did not affect us much. Thankfully. We were sort of on the outer fringes.
  • And... the U.S. election is over!! (And if we're sick of it here, north of the border, I can only imagine how relieved you are in the States...!)
  • Perhaps best of all -- I recently (finally!) got to meet the lovely and talented Msfitzita. We live on opposite sides of a vast metropolitan area, and I actually spent more time coming & going to her home than I did with her (!), but it was well worth the trip. Hopefully we can do it again soon (maybe next time somewhere midway for us both!).