Thursday, 27 March 2008

Reality is Unreal

I admit it! It's true! Call out the Neilson people because I am blowing the curve! I am not a fan of reality programming. I just cannot suspend my belief (or intelligence) far enough to care. I will confess that I have seen the odd show from time to time, and I will also admit to being a fan of The Amazing Race for several seasons. In truth, my fascination with this game hinges on the travel logs, which are stunning, and the husband's and my history with planning and executing several car rallies over the years. (if you wish to see this formerly annual event return, please flood the husband's e-mail. He needs to hear it from the masses!) For the most part, however, the genre does not interest me. I simply cannot muster enough enthusiasm for anyone who wants to be like Trump, wishes to starve half to death on a deserted island, wants to be cloistered for weeks at a time in a sealed house with a bunch of losers whose faces seem to have been lifted from local post offices, or wants to find "the one"! I cannot understand why we watch mostly "D" list celebrities learn to ballroom, or poor youngsters have their musical hopes and dreams crushed in front of hundreds of millions. I don't care if my dad can take your dad ( I am sure he can!) or if two crazy families want to take on each other's nightmare mom. If this is your entertainment of choice then go at it, but it simply bores me to tears. Who needs such semi-scripted drivel when we have the real thing flooding our entertainment vehicles every hour? I speak of course about the body politic. I wish I could say that I am discussing such erudite ideas as the current conflicts abroad or the stumbling economy. No, instead I am referring to the most recent revelation that the former governor of New York likes to pay 4 grand to do it with his socks on! (Why these guys can't keep their flies zipped is beyond me, but it reeks of utter stupidity!) Later that same week, we were subjected to Larry King (a voice of morality swimming against his personal history of 8 marriages!) interviewing the always tolerant (?) Dr. Laura Shlesinger as to why men cheat and how it must be their spouse's fault for not satisfying them at home. All the major 24 hr news outlets ran wall to wall coverage on the sexual dalliances of powerfully stupid male politicians who obviously didn't learn their lessons from the 42nd president. (Clinton-for those of us not keeping track of such things) There were reminders of Kennedy and Roosevelt, neither man a paragon of virtue during their times in the White House. There were histories of countless congressmen, senators, governors, and military men all caught with their proverbial pants down. There was file footage of numerous clergymen pleading for forgiveness from God, family and church (not necessarily in that order) for their careless breaking of one of the top ten. There were the psychotherapists. Dozens of them on every show at all hours of the day and night, spouting inane theories as to why this keeps happening. There were the inevitable offers from sleaze mags for the professional sex worker and paparazzi following her every move, bump and grind. It was in the mainstream media, the viral media, the internet and television. For all of our puritan ideas and moral spewing, North Americans love a good sex scandal and this one was great. It had everything the viewing audience could ask for. It had an enormously self-absorbed, power hungry and self righteous man ripe for the Mount Everest of falls. It had a long-suffering but quite brilliant wife who stood beside her philandering husband and looked as if the Apocalypse had indeed arrived. It had the gorgeous, but not too bright hooker who had no idea that she had just serviced the government of New York and it had the knives and swords of the political world out and itching for blood. How could anything be that good on reality TV? Eliot Spitzer and the high priced call girl? Now that's entertainment!!!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

When Did Driving Become a Contact Sport?

It is not a secret that I do not enjoy driving. I am not fearful. I am quite careful, rarely speed, never tailgate and am quite adept at parallel parking, although I rarely attempt it and would rather walk a mile than struggle with the spot. I have never had a moving violation (although that admission will probably upset the ticket gods and I will most certainly be punished with the speed trap that resides at Clark and Charles!!) and the only accident that I have been a part of while I was at the wheel occurred almost 28 years ago and I was the third car in a 3 car mess. In other words--NOT MY FAULT! (that's my story and I am sticking to it!) Given my end of December birthday, I was trained early on in the lessons of Canadian winter driving. While my complete and utter disdain for the months between November and March is well-documented, I actually do know how to navigate through the slush and snow. I recognize the necessities of the skill, especially residing in the northern bosom of suburbia, and given the complete chaos that is our public transit, I am certainly not in any position to give up my car. (while I may loathe driving, I actually love my car! It is a lovely vehicle with a hue of ice blue that I bathe and vacuum regularly. If I could come up with a suitable name for her without feeling absolutely ridiculous-I would!) I simply do not enjoy the act of driving. There is history to this discomfort.

I learned to drive on an early 1970s model of the Ford LTD station wagon. It came complete with paneled siding and a large bench front seat, which meant that my dad had his knees in his throat every time he let me drive in order to accommodate my leprechaun legs. I had to sit on at least two pillows so that I could see over the steering wheel. One early morning, while driving some friends home after sleeping out, I was stopped by the police who could not see anyone in the driver's seat! Uncomfortable? I should say so! This lack of comfort has followed me throughout adult driving. While pregnant with older son, I drove a Hyundai Pony. (remember those?) It had no air conditioner (he was born Labour Day-really-no joke-Labour Day) during one of the Big Smoke's hotter summers and a seat that only adjusted forward and back. When you are my size, there is only so much space for baby to grow, and he did-right into the steering wheel. I could barely reach the pedals. The husband taught me how to drive a standard shift, but I couldn't reach the clutch without literally standing on top of it. On a trip to Florida early in our marriage, it was necessary for me to rent the car, as the husband was not yet the required legal age in the state. (yes, I married a barely younger man!) Never having driven in Miami, I was not yet that familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the South Florida roads and it's drivers. OK, fine! I got stuck on the Hollywood Circle for over 35 minutes! Nobody would let me in, the husband was yelling and cursing me, I was crying hopelessly and I haven't driven much down there ever since. No, driving has never been easy for me.

When it came time to teach the next generation, I came up with what I thought was a fair deal. Since I had tutored both progeny in the skills required for their B'nai Mitzvah, I felt VERY strongly that it should fall on the husband to teach his sons the manly ritual of driving. He came home on one such white knuckle-inducing occasion and promptly declared that teaching your children to drive was the only exercise parents were forced to endure where they could certainly die in the process. I think that the husband would much rather have taught the trope! The Ontario government in it's infinite wisdom has given us this wonderful system of graduated licensing, but even after going through regulation driving classes, an enormous teaching burden still falls on the parents. Scared parents. Unqualified parents. Worse yet, it continues for up to 5 years. Frightening stuff! But I think that my frustration with driving has hit a peak over the past couple of years. I used to think that Floridians were the worst drivers I had ever seen. That is saying a lot considering I have visited NYC, London, Rome (oy!), Boston, LA, Tel Aviv and Paris. I realize now that it is not the cities, it is the drivers and the culture we live in. People have no patience for any delays. They weave in and out of traffic, cut into lanes in order to move forward a single car length, drive on sidewalks and pedestrian areas, run yellows and reds with regularity, speed through construction sites, and zip past school zones and school buses without thought. Drivers spend more time in traffic, so they spend more time while in the car on the phone, texting, shaving, putting on make-up, doing crossword puzzles (yup-saw it!), reading the paper and following up on files. Transit hasn't kept up with population growth, so there are more cars on the roads with more impatient drivers. Road rage has become part of our modern language. A simple trip to the grocery store that used to take 10 minutes of driving time, now takes 20. Rush hour lasts all day as there is no avoiding traffic congestion at any time of the day or night. Construction literally shuts down whole sections of the city as drivers search for alternate routes. People jostle and fight for parking spots as they might for a sale item. I actually witnessed one poor woman standing in a spot fending off all comers while her husband circled back to park! Whenever one of the sons leaves the house, car keys in hand, I always caution them to drive safely. They always roll their eyes with that "Aw Mom" look and ask don't I trust them. They are both very good drivers and I do trust them. It is everybody else out there on the roads of hell that I do not trust. I have often thought if I could have one domestic helper, which would I choose. Would it be the cook, so that I could be free of the kitchen, the maid so that I wouldn't have to scrub the toilets or the chauffeur so that I would never again have to brave the constant battle between me and the roads of North America? My choice is clear. Who wants the job?

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Connectivity Part Deux!

I want an iphone!!!!
I have wanted an iphone since it came out last June. It is the coolest little gadget to hit the market since...well...since the ipod. If you haven't seen it, played with it, held it, you are probably just like me....CANADIAN!!!! You see, by virtue of my Nanook of the north birthright and residency, the powers that be will not allow me to purchase an iphone, at least not legally. So, being the righteous and morally upright individual that I am, I have not purchased an iphone, even though my cell contract was due and I had the purchase price burning a hole on my VISA card. The ways and means of the CRTC and the monopolies that are our telecommunications industry is a whole series of blog items for another day. (or month!) Given that the iphone was not an option, the husband and I went searching for the latest upgrades to our handsfree world. (Please- all minds out of the gutter-let's focus on the prize!) I have never really thought of myself as a toy person. (iphone envy excepted) My feelings about gadgetry are entirely consistent with my feelings about my car, that being when I turn it on, I expect it to run and function flawlessly. I do not care how it works, why it work, what works with it or what the problems are. Just do the job for me and we will get along famously. Now, don't get me wrong, I love technology and all the conveniences that it provides, but I do not and never have required the latest, greatest or the slickest. Except for my cellphone! (As an aside- the husband IS a toy guy. He is positively drooling over that newest MACBOOK Air. You know the commercial with the computer so thin that it fits into a manila envelope? Well, the husband and his Y chromosome gene pool practically develop hives every time it airs!) It constantly amazes me how dependent I have become on my cellphone. And it is not just me-it is EVERYBODY! Twenty years ago, the husband was the object of much ridicule when he installed one of the earliest mobile phones into his car. (I told you-he is a gadget guy!) Today, one cannot go anywhere without their own personal lifeline. Yesterday, as I was visiting my parents, Mom and Dad had 4 separate phone conversations going at once. 2 landlines were constantly ringing as were 2 individual cellphones. The most annoying part was that not a single ringtone was a classic phone! There was "Take me out to the Ball Game", some Bach ditty, and a couple of electronic numbers that truly ask the question "Is this music?" During the winter months, I travel back and forth to the land of sanity with some regularity and I often travel unaccompanied. Several weeks ago, as I sat in the departure lounge awaiting my most recent return to the land of grey, I realized that I could not focus on the book that I had with me. Why? Because all around me, in an absolutely jam-packed airport, every single person was have a personal cellphone conversation. I learned about cruises just finished and children's viruses. I heard stories of business deals gone wrong and school papers yet to be completed. I learned that body building and serious weight training has really changed since the whole steroid issue and I learned that the Maple Leafs really suck (as if I needed more verification) and that Fletcher and the boys really blew the trade deadline. What happened to personal space and privacy? When I make a cellphone call, I search out a corner, a hovel a crawl space. Who cares about my personal business? I don't care about yours. Why should I be subject to your calls everywhere I go? The world has become a constant din of conversation and none of it is with the people sitting next to you! That is not to say that I believe we should relinquish our phones. They are truly and godsend and I love mine with a true and faithful heart. It is a safety device, a business tool, a datebook and phonebook. It can e-mail and take photos and video. It is my alarm clock and it can by a music portal. When they figure out how to make dinner, believe me I will be first in line. It is small and portable and it makes me feel safe. I have spent more time discussing other people's cell plans than I have politics. I know about shared minutes and roaming and family plans and text messages. I understand about favourite 5s and bundles. I am a veritable font of cellular knowledge. I even had a conversation about our plan at synagogue a few weeks back. Everyone is into it and everyone knows it. It has become a life imperative like our cars and televisions. I even know many who have forsaken their landlines all together in favour of their cells. As for me, well I have become the proud owner of a brand new ruby-red Blackberry Pearl. It is a lovely little gadget with all of the amenities required. But, you know what? I still want an iphone!

Connectivity or how the Computer has become a great friend!

I'm baaaack!!!!
I know that for many out there, you are probably saying "Oh no-not again!" "She is NOT AGAIN going to subject me to more whining and cloying drivel on subjects that I have absolutely no interest in!" Well, to all of those in the crowd my response is-Frankly, I could not care less. Stop reading. Turn off the computer and find a more esoteric and intellectual past time. Nobody, least of all me, if forcing you to read my crap. I realize that this is not great art-but it is all mine!

The kitchen renovation blogs started as a way for me to keep my sanity throughout an extremely invasive period in my life. It was also a way to keep my snowbird parents apprised of the progress (or lack thereof) during the construction process. There was, however a strange side benefit that developed. I found that I kind of liked the writing. I found it extremely cathartic. It allowed me a forum to vent all of my frustrations, not only those related to the kitchen chaos. Now, here is the strange part. People were actually reading my thoughts. It was as if I were keeping a personal journal that wasn't all that personal. I was getting e-mails and calls from friends and acquaintances that were wondering when the next installment was arriving. (I was also getting e-mails and calls from some people begging to removed from my list, although those were fewer, but ruder.) I was also being stopped in local haunts by people that I really did not know all that well. Some had be forwarded my blog. Some were going through a similar experience and wanted to tell me their stories. All in all, the entire experience (mostly positive) was one of complete self-awareness, kind of like the endorphins that are supposed to kick in during exercise. (Does that actually happen?) So, I have decided to continue my journal. (insert groans here!) It won't be nearly as frequent and it won't be as self-contained as the kitchen blogs, but it will be all mine. It will be sarcastic and self-loathing (Did you forget who was writing this crap?) and it will be opinionated as hell! (Again-this is DAWN'S blog!!!!) The computer, and more to the point the internet and social networking sites have opened up an entire vista for friendships and this type of interaction. Allow for some elucidation.

I am an extremely shy person. I know that many of you find that impossible to believe, but it is true. Performers in general, are often shy and it is through their performances that they show their true selves. Personal interaction has always been awkward for me and it is something that I have had to really work on throughout my life. This came as a great shock to my gregarious, life-of-the-party father. My dad is a people person. He is out there! He loves conversation and sitting still is not his thing. He truly could talk to a mannequin and elicit a response. Not surprisingly, he is in sales and he is damn good at it. Dad keeps up with friends, clients and acquaintances with equal verve. He absolutely LOVES the telephone. I, on the other hand, have a phone phobia. Always have. Hate it with a true passion. I was truly happy when automated systems entered our world, as it meant I didn't have to talk to a real person. I do not initiate phone calls! I still cannot figure out how one of my favourite people in the whole world, can gab away hours while simply attempting to find a diversion to folding her laundry. Just not my thing, even though I have been said diversion on many an occasion. But, my true salvation came with e-mail. Suddenly, the phone became a non-entity. Why call when you could IM? Why waste precious time on small talk when a two-line message could get the point across in 10 seconds? I realize that you lose a personal element, a touch, a sensitivity, but I was willing to lose. I know that e-mail cannot convey emotion. (no matter what the emoticons think!) And then came Facebook. All of a sudden, I had a whole whack of friends that I could keep up with without ever dialing a phone number. I discovered what their families were up to and how they were spending their days. I knew when they were stranded at the airports during storms, when they were playing hooky from work (some of you are playing an awful lot of scrabbulous during the work week) and when they were sick. I have actually learned a great deal about people l only had cursory knowledge of previously. I have gleaned recipes, discovered new theatre, had invitations to art shows and new business openings. I have played online scrabble and scramble and have discovered just how competitive some of you are. (OK-how competitive I am!) I have seen and posted pictures of simchas and crappy weather. I have found a new voice in writing this blog. And so, I will continue to explore with my new online world. Anybody up for Scrabbulous? Send me a game!