Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Oh Doctor!

A school in British Columbia has banned a quote  from the Dr. Seuss book Yertle the Turtle from being displayed in a elementary school classroom for apparently being to politically polarizing for the students.

The offending quote reads as follows: "I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights”

I know. Really. A terrible message for young minds to absorb, that all peoples are created equal and that all should have rights. I remember reading this and other Dr. Seuss works to my children when they were quite young, and I honestly cannot recall if I had discussions with either boy about the nature of left versus right as is referenced within the body politic. My guess? Probably not, unless it was in the context of treating others around them fairly and without prejudice-a lesson that most likely was not easily absorbed by the members of this school board.

Now I am not naive. Dr. Seuss was not without his politics. He started off as a political cartoonist after all, (he readily admitted that Yertle was modelled after Hitler) but I would venture to guess that in his messages to children and the caregivers reading to them, he never fathomed the crazy extremes to which people today would go in order to shelter children from radical political indoctrination ideals like fairness, respect for the environment, conflict resolution, religious respect, and admiration for those who are different.

In the great doctor's honour, I offer 10 of my most favourite quotes from his works. I am certain that you all have your own preferences and I open up the comment section for your reminiscences. 
  1. "The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether they had one, or not, upon thars."
  2. "A person's a person no matter how small."
  3. "Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you."
  4. "I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one hundred percent."
  5. "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
  6. "I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues."
  7. "Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas....perhaps....means a little bit more!"
  8. "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
  9. "Oh the things you can find if you don't stay behind!"
  10. "I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you Sam I am."
Radical stuff, I know. But I can honestly think of worse values to live by.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Happy Birthday, Gorgeous!

I always said that there were three artists for whom I would literally camp out overnight in a lineup to see. Judy Garland (who was long gone by the time I stated these words), Bette Midler (who I was fortunate enough to catch in concert several years ago), and of course the grand dame herself, Barbra. I realize that my affinity for these ladies will not endear me to hipster music lovers, and that it will probably elicit groans from many in my own generation never mind my children's, but I'm sorry! I have always loved talent and these broads were and are the best of the best. I have been thinking a great deal of the gift that is La Streisand today on this her 70th birthday and it struck me that I was in total awe of her gifts not just because I yearned to possess merely a fraction of her vocal ability, but because she is always note and phrase perfect. The woman simply knows how to sell a song. Not only that, but she was and continues to be fearless in her musical choices. When disco was the rage, she worked with Donna Summer and Barry Gibb. When Broadway was back in fashion, she returned to her roots and reintroduced a whole new generation to Stephen Sondheim. When faith music stirred her, she recorded some brave choices without fear. She has always done it her way, often under the gaze of intense criticism, but she has controlled her career and her message in a way that no other female artist can ever claim to have done. Without Barbra there would be no Bette, no Whitney, no Mariah, no Celine, no other pretenders to the throne.

I finally did get to see her perform live when she finally resumed touring after decades of resisting due to intense stage fright. I took my parents because they were the ones who instilled my love for her early on. As I sat there watching them enjoy every single note and lyric, I was reminded of all of those times watching "My Name is Barbra" in reruns, all of those hours pretending I could reach the notes in "Evergreen", and all of those hours in the car singing with my dad. It was worth every dime spent on the evening.

In my final year of high school vocal music, I had to prepare a solo piece complete with full orchestra behind me. Naively, I chose to sing "The Way We Were". (It was the early 80s and the movie was still a big deal.) My teacher was impressed enough to force me to perform it at the end of year music night. I can still feel my knees shaking all these years later as I kept thinking, "Who the hell do you think you are? Barbra?" When the ordeal was done, Tom Cheek (yes he of Blue Jay broadcast fame) who was acting as emcee that evening, came over and kissed my 18 year old hand and told me I had done well. All I kept thinking was I hope I didn't embarrass Barbra. Happy Birthday, Gorgeous. May there be many more to come.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

My body is Healthy if not Perfect!

It has been too long since I have taken to the keyboard to write in this space. Chalk it up to writer's block with a hint of daily busyness. In any case something tweaked my sense of justice today that I felt was just screaming for a response. And you know me, I am never shy with my responses.

Last week actress Ashley Judd published an essay in The Daily Beast that was mostly a response to some fairly ugly media coverage about her appearance. While I agreed with most of what she said about the greater conversation that is constantly being had concerning women's bodies and the impossible and ridiculous images that we women are often forced to live up to, it struck me as just a wee bit disingenuous that a celebrity who has traded on her appearance for most of her career in order to further that career was pushing this important and necessary agenda forward. That said, I do think that most of what Ms. Judd railed against in her essay is just and valid. We women are held to unwieldy and impossible standards when it comes to our appearance, and the fashion industry, media outlets, advertising agencies, and others are complicit in this nightmare.

We fast forward to yesterday, where here in Toronto the mayor was conducting his weekly weigh-in. This mayor has struggled mightily with his poundage and while I disagree with the man on just about every policy issue he has, I can readily identify with his battle against the bulge. I commend the man for attempting to get healthy and, speaking as one who has spent a lifetime dealing with weight issues, I share his pain every single week when he publicly gets on that scale and stalls or gains a pound. Yesterday in the heat of the weigh-in two protestors from PETA crashed the party in an attempt to convert "hizzoner"to a vegan lifestyle.

Now I need to make it perfectly clear that I hold absolutely no love for PETA. As a vegetarian, I cringe every single time these crazy people try and speak for me and mine. In my opinion, this is an organization that seems to trip over its own tongue whenever it attempts to advance its single issue agenda. This publicity stunt was not well received by the mayor, the press, or much of the citizenry of Toronto. If we want to have a debate about PETA and their mission and the flawed messages that they attempt to impart, I am willing to have that discussion. What I am not willing to engage in is image bashing like that of one of my Facebook friends this morning that basically trashed the two young women's appearance and body types as evidence that their vegan lifestyle is a hoax. This type of crude attempt at humour is exactly of the kind that Ms. Judd was exploring in her article. When does it become okay to call out these crude responses for that which they are-neanderthal and misogynistic attempts at humour that disparage women.

What if I had used disparaging language to describe the mayor's body type in speaking about my opposition to his flawed policies? Isn't that just as disgraceful as my Facebook friend's comments about these women and the organization they represent? Until we can engage in civil debate about our differences without bringing body and appearance  into the fray, we will never be able to move the dialogue forward and have a healthy debate about the issues which Ms. Judd advocated.