Monday, February 17, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: (More) Odds & ends

  • Today is our Family Day long weekend Monday in Ontario. :p  Most of the press coverage I've seen has just been focused on what's open & closed -- no sentimental musings on the meaning of family (which usually mentions children and is seldom defined as a family of two like mine) -- for which I'm grateful. :) 
  • Our Valentine's Day was pretty uneventful. We generally just exchange cards (which we did) -- and we did the housecleaning (which is our usual Friday thing to do), lol.  It was pretty cold outside, so I was actually happy to just stay cozy at home. We did take BIL & SIL out for dinner on Saturday night, which was their wedding anniversary. (The restaurants were still pretty busy then, but we managed to get in to our favourite pizza restaurant fairly quickly -- even without a reservation! -- by going there right when it opened at 5 p.m.) 
  • Pre-VDay, I had bought a red sleeper for little Great-Nephew that said "Cuter than Cupid" on the front (lol), but we also took over a little book & card for him on Thursday night. His mom posted photos of him wearing the sleeper on Valentine's Day to her social media accounts, and thanked us for the book & card. :)  
  • Younger Nephew & his wife are planning a sunspot vacation to celebrate their second wedding anniversary in April.  BIL (the nephews' dad):  "I'll bet she comes back pregnant. A girl this time around... that would be nice."  Dh: "Well... I guess we'll see...!" (Me: (silently rolling my eyes...!) ).  
  • The Globe & Mail published an extensive first-person article this weekend about IVF in Canada (& the province of Ontario in particular), making a case for expanded government funding and regulation.  
    • As always, beware the comments!
  • The latest (February) episode of The Full Stop podcast (created for & by the childless-not-by-choice community) features a conversation with Suzan Muir of Australia. I was fascinated by her thoughts on rites of passage and childlessness (around the 43 minute mark), as well as nature as a community that she (& we) can connect to as a part of our healing. 
    • The podcast turns one in May!  And they are marking it with a birthday party, with all three co-hosts together in the same room for the very first time! Co-host Michael & his wife Vicki will be making the trip from their home in Australia to England to celebrate with co-hosts Sarah & Berenice, AND they've invited the CNBC community to join them. If you're going to be in London (lucky you!) on Saturday, May 9th, a limited number of spots are available...details here!  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston

"A Life in Parts" by Bryan Cranston is my library book club's read for February (to be discussed at our upcoming meeting later this month).

I must confess, I have never seen a single episode of "Breaking Bad."  I do remember Cranston well as the harried father in "Malcolm in the Middle" and I recognize him from other, smaller parts on various TV shows ("Seinfeld," for one) over the years.

"A Life in Parts" is written as a series of episodes covering Cranston's life (more or less chronologically), each one focused on his particular personal or professional role at that moment in time. The headers read, for example, "Walter White," "Son," "Flea Marketeer," "Paperboy," "Universal Life Minister" (!), and so on. 

Cranston's parents were both actors (his first professional gig was a United Way ad that his dad wrote, produced and directed). Their acrimonious split, when he was a child, was a turning point in Cranston's life. As interesting as Cranston's thoughts and memories of his acting life were to read about, the stories about his family and his personal life were equally engaging. We learn a lot about Cranston the actor -- how he has approached the roles he's played and built a long-lasting career -- but also about Cranston the son, brother, husband, father. It's funny, sad, thoughtful and absorbing -- an all-round great read.   

This would be a must-read for any aspiring actor as well as "Breaking Bad" fans. (I enjoyed the book tremendously, but I wonder just how much more I would have appreciated it if I'd actually seen Cranston in his most famous role.)  If you just like a well-written memoir about an interesting and well-lived life, this would also be a good pick.

Four (4) stars on Goodreads. (Several reviewers there highly recommend the audiobook version, read by the author, if you enjoy those.) 

This was Book #7 read in 2020 to date (my second book finished in February), bringing me to 23% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 4 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Odds & ends (the downbeat edition)

  • I had almost forgotten that -- in addition to every single woman's favourite (not) holiday, Valentine's Day -- it's Family Day this weekend in Ontario (& several other Canadian provinces). (Past Family Day-related posts/rants here.) I received an unwelcome reminder by way of a sappy radio ad that was sponsored by a union (!). Bah, humbug. :p 
  • An older, distant (female, American, conservative) relative rarely posts on Facebook -- but recently, she posted a faux Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy says, "Women have the right to control their own bodies!" and Linus retorts, "If you controlled them, you wouldn't need abortions!" I promptly unfollowed her. I put up with a LOT of political crap I don't agree with from some of my relatives on social media -- but when you put lines like that in the mouths of beloved Peanuts characters (who would NEVER have said anything like that...!!), I really have to draw the line. :p  (Especially with an election coming up in the States later this year...!) 
  • I had some sad/shocking news over the weekend when I talked to my mother:  she told me she'd seen an obituary in the city paper... for my sister's first high school boyfriend.  They didn't go together very long, maybe a few months (some 40+ (!!) years ago now), but of course I remember him vividly.  My sister is a bit of a tough cookie -- or at least she likes to present herself that way ;) -- but my mom told me she burst into tears when she heard the news.  He was a live wire, kind of a hyper kid, a bit of a chatterbox -- so it's hard to believe he's gone. He was only 57 (same age as my sister), and had been ill for almost a year. Way too young. :( 
    • I had my own little side romance going on with his best friend at the same time -- we all hung out together. He was my one and only high school "boyfriend" -- and I'm not even  really sure I can or should call him that. I think we had just one "official" date -- the four of us went to a dance together at the other high school in town (there were two!), and he paid my way in. We danced together there, and at a few house parties, and made out a few times, and I think he called me a few times, but that was it. I knew our relationship would fizzle out after my sister & his friend broke up -- and it did -- but we stayed friends (cordial but awkward in the school halls...)(I was friends with his two younger brothers as well, and our moms also knew each other), and I still have fond memories of him and of that time in my life.
    • After writing the above, I started Googling -- & ran across a blog written by my old boyfriend's younger brother. 
      • He has stage 4 cancer and expects to be gone within the year. :(  
      • I think it's time for me to get offline for a while...!  

Monday, February 10, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Never mind...

The move is off.  :(  Without going into all the details, part of the funding that Older Nephew & his wife were counting on to purchase their townhouse fell through. Fortunately, they were able to recoup their initial deposit (there was a cooling-off period built into the contract).  I guess that's real estate for you...!

They are upset, of course, and while we don't like seeing them disappointed, dh & I think maybe it's for the best. We understand their desire to spread their wings and get out on their own. At the same time, we felt they might have been rushing into things. A little patience can go a long way...! 

I found myself thinking that, if buying a house and being independent is such a priority, then why did they go ahead & get pregnant?  (Not that I would give Great-Nephew back!!) It's not always possible to have everything you want, all at the same time...

But then I think, well, dh & I were so very conscious about being fiscally responsible and buying a house before starting a family -- and where did that get us?  By the time we left our adults-only apartment in the city (thanks to some help with the down payment from my generous FIL -- or we'd probably still be there...!), five years had passed; by the time we got a handle on mortgage payments and home ownership, another few years had gone by. I was in my mid-30s by the time we finally did start trying for a baby -- and then, when I told my family dr that we'd been trying for a while without results, he just patted me on the head and told me it would happen. (And this happened more than once.)

And I believed him.

By the time I did get pregnant, I was 37 -- and we all know how that ended. :(   After that, with the clock ticking in the background, we tried infertility testing and treatments -- until they left me a total physical, emotional, mental and financial wreck, shortly after my 40th birthday.

So here we are, almost (gulp) 20 years later -- doing pretty well financially, retired in our 50s and living in a nice, mortgage-free condo (after selling the house we bought 30 years ago) -- but, of course, no family. It's a good life, but it's certainly not the life we wanted, or planned, or expected.

Who's to say we did the right thing?

Who's to say they didn't?

There's always a price to pay. There are always tradeoffs -- and not always ones we can control. And not always the ones we're expecting.

Time will tell.

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

Saturday, February 8, 2020

"Good Lovin'" by Gene Cornish

The first rock & roll album I ever owned -- a present for my 6th birthday -- was The Best of Herman's Hermits Volume 2.  :)  The second (a gift to my sister & me from either our grandparents or our uncle, I think) was "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals. We studied their faces & names on the back of the album cover and made up dances to go along with the songs. :)

I hadn't listened to that album in years, or given the Rascals much thought, until late in 2012, or perhaps sometime in early 2013, when I opened the Sunday New York Times and saw a full-page ad for a Broadway show/concert called "Once Upon a Dream," which was reuniting all four original members of the Rascals for the first time in 40 years.  The show was the brainchild/obsession of one of their biggest fans, Steve Van Zandt (of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band), who was instrumental in getting the band named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Seeing the familiar names & faces from the back of my album cover in the ad, after so many years, I felt a wave of nostalgia come over me. I started Googling the band and the show and looking up old clips on YouTube, and when they brought the production to Toronto in August that year, I dragged my dh to the beautiful old Royal Alexandra Theatre to see them. (You can read my post about the concert here).

They were FABULOUS -- absolutely no rust showing on these guys after so many years apart (and all of them pushing 70 at that point). Eddie Brigati, the longest reunion holdout of the four, brought the house down with his signature tune, "How Can I Be Sure?" Dh was agog watching the amazing drummer, Dino Danelli. Felix Cavaliere was a commanding presence at the Hammond organ, still with a first-rate voice. And nobody seemed to be enjoying themselves more than the guitarist, Gene Cornish (who was born in Ottawa and grew up just across the lake from Toronto in Rochester, New York).

The Rascals were hugely popular in their time, but unfortunately have never quite achieved the lasting fame of some of their peers. There's not much out there that's been written about them (although various members of the group have been rumoured to be their writing memoirs over the years). Finally, last fall, Gene Cornish published his -- "Good Lovin':  My Life as a Rascal" -- with the help of writer Stephen Miller.  (It's available from Amazon, both in paperback and on Kindle.)

Like so many kids of his generation, Cornish picked up a guitar after seeing Elvis Presley on television in the late 1950s. His mother took him to see Buddy Holly in 1958.  By the time he was in high school, he was a veteran of several bands in the Rochester area. With the support of his parents, he went to New York City where he landed a job with the Starlighters, the house band at Joey Dee's Peppermint Lounge. It wasn't long before he left with several of the other band members to form their own band -- the Young Rascals (eventually shortened to just the Rascals). (Replacing him in the Starlighters was a guy named Jimmy James -- later better known as Jimi Hendrix!)  Over the next year (1964-65), the Rascals honed their craft in clubs in New Jersey, Long Island and NYC, got a recording contract and began touring and making television appearances. Hit single after hit single followed -- until, sadly, the band imploded in the early 1970s under the stresses of constant touring, writing and recording, inter-band rivalries, poor management and bad business decisions.

Cornish, an only child, regarded (and still regards) the other three band members as his brothers. They have come through for him at various times and in various ways over the years since the band split up -- but like any family, they have also had some serious disagreements and betrayals. He's honest about how he saw their differences, as well as his own shortcomings. (It would be interesting to hear the others' versions of these same events...!)  After he and Danelli left the Rascals, they formed a couple of other bands together, including Bulldog and Fotomaker, as well as their own version of the New Rascals (touring at the same time as a rival version of the band led by Cavaliere). Cornish wound up broke, homeless, living in a small apartment with his mother, and addicted to cocaine. He finally kicked the habit in 2012 with the support of his new girlfriend (now fiancee), Debbee.

Then came "Once Upon a Dream," which was supposed to put the Rascals back in what Van Zandt saw as their rightful place as elder statesmen of rock and roll history. Unfortunately, while it was a great show that got rave reviews, it was extremely expensive to produce and take on the road, and Van Zandt pulled the plug in late 2013.

Since then, Cornish has teamed up with Cavaliere (and Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice) in yet another version of the Rascals. While on tour in Billings, Montana, in September 2018, he suffered a major heart attack while onstage. (He previously went through a quadruple bypass and colon cancer.) I am glad he's doing better, and that he finally got this book done. He will be 76 years old in May. 

The book was self-published, and I'm afraid it could have used a good editor/proofreader -- there are numerous typos, misspelled names and redundancies.  It rambles at times -- at more than 500 (!) pages, the copy could have used some tightening up.  (I used to do this for a living, lol -- I couldn't help but notice!) And it's funny/sad how so many rock and roll memoirs resemble each other to the point of cliche -- the drugs, the infighting, the rise and fall and rise again...

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at a great '60s band that was part of my childhood musical memories. Some of the Rascals story was familiar to me through my online reading, but a lot of it was not, and there are lots of cameo appearances/anecdotes about other famous names (musical and otherwise) of the time. If you are a Rascals fan, this is (obviously) a must-read. You will also likely enjoy it if you're a fan of 1960s music or musical memoirs generally. 

3 stars on Goodreads -- 3.5 if half-stars were do-able.

This was Book #6 read in 2020 to date (my first book finished in February), bringing me to 20% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, February 3, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • I always feel like I'm "cheating" whenever I do an "odds & ends" post, especially for #MicroblogMondays... but I couldn't come up with anything else, and I already had an "odds & ends" post started, so...  ;)  
  • Older Nephew & his wife -- who have been living with BIL & SIL for several years now -- first in a tiny apartment in the basement, and now upstairs, since the birth of little Great-Nephew in November -- have put a deposit on a new townhouse in a new development that's currently under construction. Both sets of parents are helping with the down payment to defray the mortgage costs. It's in a small town, about a 30-40 minute drive from here, and will be about a 45-minute drive to work for Older Nephew (slightly less for his wife, once she returns to her job after maternity leave). They had to go that far afield to find anything remotely more affordable than what's available hereabouts -- but they're still paying a ridiculous price for a townhouse so far out from the city, IMHO. :p  They likely won't be moving until next fall or even next Christmas, but we're already feeling a little sad. It's not THAT far away -- and I understand their desire to spread their wings and get a place of their own (he's 31 years old, after all...! & they've been married three years already -- dh & I were on our own long before that age) -- but still, we will miss having them -- and little Great-Nephew -- and even (especially?? lol) the dog -- closer by. 
  • Here's an interesting tidbit I learned from a CBS Sunday Morning profile last week:  did you know that Raffi, the children's entertainer, does not have children himself (by choice)? 
  • I have Blogger set up to email myself my posts when I publish them as a form of backup -- but this can be hit or miss, on & off.  Example: My review of  "Uncanny Valley" on Jan. 25 was the first post sent to me since Oct. 3 (my review of "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh")(!). Almost four months, and 50 posts later... that's quite a gap!  (And this is not the first time that's happened!)  The mysteries of technology...??! Has this happened to anyone else? 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Right now

Right now... (an occasional meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current")

Reading:  I read five (5) books in January (all good, all reviewed on this blog & tagged "2020 books"): 

These five books equal 17% of my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge goal of 30 books. Off to a good start!  :)  

Current read(s):  Haven't started anything new yet. (But it will probably be a lighter read than "A Very Stable Genius,"  lol.)  

My library book club's January discussion (last week) was for "The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn, which I read & reviewed early in 2019, here. (I just did a quick skim to refresh my memory for our discussion vs a total re-read.) We'll be discussing "A Life in Parts" by the actor Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad," "Malcolm in the Middle," etc.) at our next meeting later in February.  (That may be the book I pick up next.) 
(Some) recent purchases/additions to the TBR pile (that I haven't read yet):
Watching:  Lots of figure skating on TV!  (both Canadian & U.S. national championships)  Four Continents coming up, and then Worlds (in Montreal this year) in March!  

We saw four (4) really great movies during January! including: 
On television, I STILL haven't made time to get into Season 3 of "The Crown." I HAVE been watching "Howard's End" on PBS, with Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter!!) in the role that won Emma Thompson an Oscar in the 1992 movie version with Anthony Hopkins. I saw that version too, but didn't remember a whole lot about it -- and that was one 2 hour movie, vs four one-hour episodes. 

NOT watching:  The Super Bowl today, lol. (I could honestly care less!)  Dh will be watching at a bar in our old community, along with his brother and several of his cousins (including Cousin/Neighbour, who still lives there). (The TV will be MINE tonight, bahahaha....)

Listening
I have LOTS of podcasts in my queue to catch up on...!

Following:  My progress (or lack thereof... :p ) on the scale...! 

Drinking/Eating:  The crockpot/slow cooker is getting lots of use lately.  Most frequently used recipes: roast beef & gravy with potatos & veggies, beef stew, chicken & dumplings.  :)  

Buying (besides books, lol):  The occasional box of diapers, and some cute outfits, for little Great-Nephew. :)  (What else are (great-)aunties for, right?) 

Wearing:  Slippers, as well as socks... the laminate floors of our condo get pretty cold in the winter! (I am sure there's a concrete base underneath!) 

Wanting: If it has to be winter, can the sun at least shine once in a while? Pretty please?? 


Trying: To remember to wash my hands more frequently, especially after we've been out & about, in view of the corona virus outbreak (as well as the regular cold & flu season). 

Loving: Little Great-Nephew. Anytime we get to see him (generally once every week or so), our day is automatically brightened!  :)  (Even if he's in a fussy mood, lol -- he's just so darned cute!)  

Feeling:  Relieved that the cold, grey, post-Christmas letdown of January is over -- albeit not looking forward to February, which is generally more of the same...! :p  (At least it's shorter??)(Although this year is a Leap Year, so, one more day than usual...!)