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New Year’s Eve “Hoe-down”

By Joan Barton

 

It was five years before we spent New Year’s Eve in Haliburton County.  Not that we dreaded the very idea of it, but there really didn’t seem to be much going on up here, and I am by birth a city girl.  I liked to prove to myself annually that I could still walk in high heels and drink from a champagne flute without dribbling into my décolletage, so for New Year’s we invariably drove down to the city.

 

Last year though, between Christmas and New Years, we got 40 cm of snow in three days, and the radio promised more to come.   Not even a party girl ignores the local weather forecast in Haliburton County in December.  Mother Nature had grounded me.  New Year’s would be a cozy night wrapped up in front of the fire with the dog at my feet.  Just like the night before.  Just like the next ninety or so nights to come. Fabulous.

 

Since we were snowed in, we were at home when our neighbour called to let us know that everybody on our road would over at the Legion for New Year’s and did we want a lift in his truck?  So at 7:00 that night I was in my closet, looking for the right outfit for the kind of New Year’s Eve party you hitch a ride to in a pickup truck.

 

We got to the hall and found our places at our “road table” just as the Blackfly Boys were tuning up.  This local band has been together for quite a while.  Most of the crowd knew all of the Boys by name and, as the grey haired fiddler “Boy” arranged his seat in front of his microphone, several members of the audience voiced their approval of his good sense, planning ahead for that point in the evening when he wouldn’t be able to stand up.  Finally the rowdies among us were firmly quieted by the lead singer, a huge man with a salt and pepper mustache, and the ensemble struck up a loose but determined interpretation of  “Are You Lonesome Tonight.”

 

A few couples got up and shuffled on the dance floor, slowing down and speeding up as the musicians chugged through the song looking for 2nd gear. Most of us just sat at the tables, sending the menfolk for drinks from the bar and catching up on Christmas gossip.  I figured we were relaxed and settled in for the night.

 

Then the singer announced “We’ll be doing a square-dance next.”  Half of our table got up.  My husband and I, and some sheepish looking younger folk, were left gawking at a suddenly crowded dance floor.  The rest of our friends were up on their feet arranging themselves into squares and kidding with the band.

 

The first dance was St. Anne’s Reel, and they all knew how to do it!  The singer did the calling, the fiddle player bounced the tune along and our friends spun and daisy-chained, broke into squares and circles and joined together again and, frankly, blew my socks off.  It’s one thing to see square-dancing performed, say, up on a stage or as part of a festival: but it’s another thing entirely to realize that your buddy who picks up milk for you in town is really good at this.

 

The band packed the floor with three square-dances in every set, then played a few wavering pop tunes to give those of us who are square-dance-impaired a chance to stretch our legs.  I would have been happy to skip the rock and roll and watch square-dancing all night but, as my neighbour explained to me, “ It’s thirsty work.”  So square-dancers take restorative breaks from time to time and support their local Legion, or at least the Legion’s bar.

 

Finally midnight rolled around so we all took to the floor with paper hats and horns and raised a good ruckus when the balloons came down from the ceiling.  After that there was coffee and Legion Lady pie, then home again in the truck, threading between snow-banks, under the stars.

 

I’m going to give those high heels to the thrift shop.  I can’t dance in the things.

Just imagine

By  George Patrick

Imagine, if you can, a new and better Canada — a Canada free of those vices that cause so much havoc in our lives — a Canada free of alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, and gambling.

Imagine a booze-free Canada where drunken drivers no longer slaughter innocents, leaving devastated families behind.

Think of a Canada where there is no tobacco addiction. Think of the enormous savings on healthcare if nobody smoked.

Imagine a Canada free of illegal drugs. No more pathetic addicts and the crimes they commit to feed their habits.
And imagine no gambling. No lives ruined, and no families destroyed, by the uncontrollable need to place one more bet, play one more slot, buy one more lottery ticket, back one more horse.

Can you imagine a Canada like that? As a nation, Canada would undoubtedly be much healthier and wealthier. Crime would go down, prisons would close, police forces shrink. In short, Canada would be a much better society. Who could not want that?

Of course, to bring about this new Canada, there would need to be a strong central government commanding support in all regions of the country, and unfortunately, that is rarely the case in Canada. Typically, the Liberals are weak in the West, the Conservatives are weak in Ontario. The government might need some outside support — some temporary back-up — in its laudable attempt to stamp out the terrible addictions that plague our society.

So let’s imagine once again. This time imagine a new, cutting edge international force — the New Addiction Transformation Organization (or NATO for short). At the behest of the United Nations, it intervenes in Canada to bolster the weak central government in its noble pursuit of a new improved, non-addictive Canada. It quickly sets about bulldozing casinos, smashing slot machines and liquor stores, turning Woodbine Racetrack into an organic farm, and spraying Agent Orange on BC marijuana fields.

Around the country many people resent this assault on their traditional way of life. Opposition grows. Angry citizens begin to purchase large amounts of ammo for their unregistered firearms. Increasingly, the NATO forces are seen as invaders trying to force their alien ways on the Canadian people. Illegal booze, cigarettes and weapons flood in from the USA.

The slaughter, destruction, chaos and terror seep into every corner of Canadian society. After seven years and thousands of deaths, NATO throws up its hands, declares victory and skedaddles.

Within 12 months, Canada is showing signs of recovery. Jack Daniels is once again plentiful; racetracks and casinos spring up again; more people than ever before are smoking; and junkies lie around with needles in their arms. Canada is Canada once again. And they all live happily ever after (sort of). The End.

OK, you’re right. This story isn’t really about Canada at all. It’s a fiendishly cunning literary device to make a point about our involvement in Afghanistan.

Chances are, nothing like my little fairy tale will ever happen here.  How strange then that people think we can intervene in utterly alien, primitive tribal societies and transform them in a few short years into some kind of liberal democracy.

Sooner or later, our intervention will fail; the people of Europe and Canada will demand the recall of NATO forces; the corrupt, ineffectual, and unpopular “democratic” government will fall; some Talibanish kind of theocracy will return; and the girls schools will become schools where boys will learn radical Islamicist propaganda. I wish it weren’t so, but that is almost certainly what is going to happen. Anyone who thinks this Afghan venture is going to have a happy ending is dreaming in technicolour, and unfortunately the dream is being paid for with Canadian blood.

 First published in Dec. 2006

Will 2015 bring extreme weather?

Gianta-Tornado

 

With the New Year fast approaching, we here at Women’s Post are wondering about what challenges mother nature has in store for 2015. Do you think global warming will bring more severe weather conditions than we have yet faced? Give us your answer and please share the poll on your social networks. Happy holidays!

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Are we ready?

By Kirk LaPointe

The newspapers have asked readers that question regularly for months. Since the last Boxing Day tsunami, since FEMA’s fumbling on Katrina, since the feeble response to the Pakistan earthquake and since the seemingly ceaseless warnings of the pandemic or the swift and surreal avian flu, we have wondered if we’re prepared. The media has given people tips on assembling disaster kits and provided them with the best possible advice on how to endure the first few days without electricity, running water, evacuation routes or a civil society to shoulder the burden of rescuing and keeping the peace.

But there is one issue that isn’t discussed. It is the notion that our physical readiness is much less of a challenge than our emotional willingness.

When you see people elbowing each other for Halloween candy in the supermarket, or jumping the Starbucks queue, or practically tackling the rival bidders for the latest downtown condominium showcase, there’s reason to doubt our capacity to set aside enough thought to deal with the strain and perhaps permanent adjustment of our values to handle the aftermath of a major natural disaster.

I’ve watched and read admiringly of the Southeast Asians who have rebuilt, with much help from abroad. But I didn’t see the same common purpose in New Orleans. And, with only a whiff of threat, it was astonishing to watch the selfishness as Hurricane Rita approached shore.

It might be too much of a bromide to restate how conditioned we are to look after ourselves first and foremost, how we’ve established material comfort as a first principle in our lives, how we’ve forgotten our neighbours and limited our involvement in community. There’s a relevant promotional ad for a Comedy Network television series taped in Vancouver, Robson Arms, in which the lead actor says he doesn’t know his neighbours — after all, he’s only been in the building for two years. If it weren’t so true, it would be funnier.

I don’t think the social terrain is firm enough to deal with the shaky ground we’re standing on. I’m not sure our leaders would lead us, or that we would follow. I’m not sure our systems would serve us, or that we would wait to be served.

In other words, I doubt we’re ready.

I look at how school children are learning so few life skills to work together in a jam. I don’t know of an office that takes its fire drills seriously, and I can’t imagine the desks rattling and the floor cracking and anything other than pandemonium ensuing

Where we are is where we can’t be, and at the risk of sounding like one of those apocalyptic fogies I’ve always decried as seriously in need of shedding their tin-foil hats, I think the time is coming where we won’t be able to run away from the serious threats risking our health and safety. I’m thinking about the cyclical, seemingly inevitable influenza that appears nearly upon us. I’m thinking about the weird and unmanageable avian flu that jumps to the human race, the freakish health disaster for which we will scramble to subdue. I’m thinking about the Big One that turns my townhouse into a detached dwelling. I’m thinking about the broken glass everywhere underfoot, the tainted water in the pipes, the natural gas lines whistling in our district, the loss of the Internet, the destruction of people who might lead us in our disarray, the worrisome situation every time night falls and the nastiest among us see the opportunity for advantage. This is what happens in middle age, I suppose.

But I think it deserves the attention that we gave deficit reduction, or the blood scandal, or the infernal sponsorship debacle. Anything less leaves us to our own devices.

Now, unlike the character in Robson Arms, I happen to know my neighbours and I have great faith we’ll pull together. Do you know yours? Do you have that same confidence? Do you see what I mean?

First published in Nov 2005 in Women’s Post Magazine

Putting a crack in the mould

From Nov 2005 Women's Post archives

He Drown She in the Sea

Shani Mootoo

McClelland & Stewart

360 pages, $29.99

 

Reviewed by Desi Di Nardo

 

It is no wonder Alice Munro calls Shani Mootoo’s most recent book, He Drown She in the Sea, “a story of magical power.” As in her previous success, Cereus Blooms at Night, you find yourself immersed in and stimulated by arresting scenery, redolent of guava mangroves, squawking green parrots, verdant bamboo forests – and all things tropical and lush. Such a colourful palette resonates with fluid, figurative language, while vivid descriptions explode before the eye and tempt the sensory. We quickly acquire a taste for Mootoo’s fictional town of Guanagaspar – a wondrous, numinous land infused with fertile scents of marigolds, coconuts and exotic blossoms.

The reader gains panoramic access into Harry St. George’s life, first in British Columbia’s bristly, towering milieu, where “range beyond range of ice-capped mountains…bursts of lavender, clumps of mustard golden rod.”

The “Canada of postcards” is contrasted to his impoverished existence in Trinidad. Once a servant’s son, Harry recalls his love for Rose, the daughter of an affluent family for whom his mother worked as a laundress. The tale unfolds years later, with Madam Rose recounting her secret visit abroad to unite with Harry.

Their story is a hopeful, evocative one woven from two fine silk threads of past and present. Set during World War 2’s political unrest, Mootoo brings to light the war’s impact not only on blacks but also on Indians of varying skin tones.

The book reminds of the film Sideways, in which the subject of wine becomes an underlying metaphor for personal awakening. In He Drown She in the Sea, wine is what is used to distinguish caste, along with the “Munrovian” mention of linoleum three separate times to further stress class distinction as the narrator later points out Harry’s new terrazzo floor.

Mootoo also tackles the issue of gender inequality through the interactions between Harry and the women he encounters. When a spirited female teaches Harry to canoe, he questions whether his wine-tasting club has ever met a woman – or even a man – as adventurous. “She wasn’t in this moment physically appealing to him, yet such independence fascinated him.”

Afterwards, when Harry’s circumstances improve, his mother asserts their new status: “We living in town now, and I don’t work for nobody no more. I, Dolly Persad, have servant – manservant, to boot – now.” The writer tactically deploys characters to overstate gender inadequacies and illustrate potentially powerful woman, the sort men from Guanagaspar desire yet reverently fear.

Interestingly, by the end, it is Rose who takes the reader on a suspenseful ride. Readers nearing the conclusion must accept that they might be left dangling by a string, suspended in mid-air uncertainty. Actually, they should expect it. But wait: as Mootoo’s last chapter looms, readers can’t help but feel they are heading towards a languorous, wistful dream, and are wary more now than ever for Rose’s and Harry’s outcomes. And this, much like the ocean that begins to swell and rise above them in that very poignant moment, also reaffirms.

Desi Di Nardo is a writer in Toronto

Death and the readin’

From the archives from the Nov. 2005  issue of Women’s Post

By Adam Levin

Over the last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about that great abstraction, death.

Apparently, this is normal for this time of year. The ancient Irish and Scottish  festival of samhain (pronounced “sa-WEEN”) marked the new year, and the Welsh had a similar holiday. The Celts believed that at this time of year, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its thinnest, and hauntings, visitations and visions at their most numerous. Accordingly, the early Celts carved jack o’lanterns out of turnips to commemorate the legend of a ghost named Jack, who was fated to wander the world with only a lighted turnip to accompany him. The lantern was also meant both to ward off evil spirits and to commemorate the dead, as candles are in many cultures worldwide. When the Scots and Irish arrived in North America, they found the pumpkin larger and better suited to their carvings.

This pagan holiday may have given birth to Halloween and to All Saints’ and All Souls’ days, and even indirectly to England’s Bonfire Night of November 5. But to see the pagan roots of these holidays today, you have only to visit Mexico on November 1 or 2, the Day of the Dead. If you can’t afford the ticket, read Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 book Under the Volcano. Horror aficionados can instead try El Día de los Muertos by Brian A. Hopkins.

I’ve had other, less-pleasant reasons for morbid reflection. Autumn is the season in which my brother died. As well, my partner’s father recently passed away after suffering through a terrible autoimmune disorder for years. On returning from his funeral, I learned that the man who was my best friend through several of our school years was stabbed in what is believed to have been a contract killing.

For some reason, poetry is the natural medium for writing about death. The classic book on death is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, a long poem occasioned by the death of Arthur Henry Hallam, who was to be Tennyson’s brother-in-law before Hallam died suddenly at 22 years. “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” by W. H. Auden, is a must-read. More recently, Canadian poet Dennis Lee’s The Death of Harold Ladoo is a masterful, honest portrait of a man who, like my friend, was murdered while visiting the Caribbean. Look for other stirring death poems by Rainer Maria Rilke and Matthew Arnold, among others.

Turning from poetry to non-fiction, the past years have seen a bumper crop of books on palliative care, bereavement, and “rethinking death.”

Linda Bonnington Vocatura’s recent Dying to Be Alive: Death As Spiritual Healer falls into what Celtic poet Dylan Thomas would call the “Death Shall Have No Dominion” category. Some thought-provoking works by Canadians include Heather Robertson’s Meeting Death and Katherine Ashenburg’s The Mourner’s Dance.

As for fiction, you’d be hard-pressed to find a great novel without at least one death in it.

A.J. Levin is the author of Monks’ Fruit (Nightwood, 2004)

Plumped, pulled and stretched

First printed in Nov 2005 by Women’s Post

By Ann Kaplan

This is an era where there is no limit to how young you can look. The aging population can whittle off a few years and doors are forever opening for new procedures. There is hope after fifty, at least hope to maintain that youthful façade housing our fit (and wise) characters.

But what happens if procedures are taken it too far? Some of my stretched and pulled friends are mere shadows of themselves. I don’t think I would even recognize now if they were to return to their old (young) selves. Are people becoming too dependent on the wonder drugs – the injectable youth serum? The answer, after spending years (aging) in this industry, is “no.” Some people will always take anything too far, but the majorities are more conservative.

It has never ceased to amaze me that there are those will look at cosmetic enhancement and scoff at the thought of it; they believe that beauty comes from within and to tamper with nature is, well, wrong. I do agree on one thing, beauty is not skin deep, and the slightly augmented can attain to this. Beautiful is on the inside, it is seen in a balanced life where ones priorities are not superficial yet they care enough to take care of themselves and be the best they can be.

Protestors to any form of cosmetic enhancement appear to have a preconceived notion that those seeking some sort of enhancement, be it in goops and creams or a full facelift, are ladies of leisure – the ones who strut a stretched and pulled cheek, looking down on the rest, wanting to raise an eyebrow (but not able to). In fact, those that unjustly tear apart the cosmetic enhancement industry have one common denominator, naivety to what they perceive as an industry for only “beautiful people”.

The majority of surgical recipients are not those that are portrayed on reality TV shows, or the humorous caricatures we may envision, they are those who “just want to look normal.” They might have a problem that has stopped them from gaining confidence (sometimes it is self inflicted) and with cosmetic enhancement they can gain the confidence that enables a new, positive take on life. Conditions, such as people who have cleft lips or unsightly moles, skin discolorations like port-wine stains and scars from trauma, even chicken pox should not be considered a flaw, however, it is comforting to know that those that must live with scars can do something about it.

However, many people do not go beyond the viewpoint that beauty and enhancement is only for the physically obsessed, and miss seeing the happiness that even a “less privileged” person finds in a little enhancement.

I do not believe that cosmetic enhancement is not acceptable, nor do I believe it is always the answer. When a person makes an informed, intelligent decision(s), I believe they should have the right, the freedom to choose how they want to look to the world around them. However, just like everything else, have your eyes open (wide). It may be a little here and a little there, but it all adds up.

Ann Kaplan is the CEO of ifinance Canada

Building confidence in your presentation

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By Anne Freedman

Maybe it’s in the air or because of where the earth is in its orbit. I’m talking about that pre-holidays urge to get more done right now than your body and soul can really handle.

Whatever I check off on my list is immediately replaced by three things. Are you finding yourself in the same place of overwhelm as I am? Between finishing the editing of my book, taking care of my clients, launching new webinars, going to meetings, and tending to my family, I confess to feeling a bit worn out of late. Looking at myself in the mirror isn’t much fun either!

For those particularly low-energy times, such as mid-afternoon, I find that a dark chocolate bar and a cup of chai tea seem to help me push through. Sometimes I allow myself to close my eyes for 15 minutes and try to rest. What works for you?

You can experience that same kind of psychic and physical fatigue preparing for important speeches and presentations. It also happens when you go to networking events and want to deliver your Elevator Pitch with punch and energy – even though you don’t feel that way.

If you didn’t catch my last free webinar, “What’s in Your Elevator Pitch?”, I encourage you to view it on YouTube by clicking here. We had terrific feedback and I want to share it with you, also. When you’re done watching the webinar, I know you’ll come away with a new high and confidence about your own elevator pitch. That’s what others have told me. When you update your self-introduction, I invite you to email it to me: anne@speakoutinc.com. I’ll be posting the best ones on my Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/speakoutinc

Please join me for my free webinar: “What’s in Your Nonprofit Elevator Pitch?” on Dec. 4th at 12 noon and 7 pm Eastern details here.
And as a reminder, you can get the discounted rate for our upcoming Dec. 11th and 18th on-line Self-Development Course, “How to Become a Powerful Leader in Your Business & Life” by entering the promo code: Passiton. For details and to register,click here

Ann Freedman is an international presentation coach, communication expert, author and app developer. As the founder and president of Speakout, Inc., she has trained and worked with hundreds of executives and businesses, including multinational corporations, Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and community-based organizations worldwide.

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Win $100 Gift card from Anthropologie.com

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Contest closes on Dec. 7, 2014 at 5 p.m.

For details on consumer cosmetic enhancement survey and to enter your name in our draw please go here: Cosmetic Enhancement Survey

This gay Mean Girls remake/parody is the best thing to ever happen on YouTube

Is it possible to make the most iconic and quotable high school /girl flick / gay favourite movie even gayer?

The answer is yes, and Mean Boyz is the perfect compliment to everything we already know and love about Mean Girls. Singer, performer, Americal Idol semifinalist, and filmmaker Todrick Hall has put together this short (featuring Chris Crocker of “leave Britney alone!” fame) that leaves us wondering why nobody has done a full gay re-make of Mean Girls already.

Take a look at let us know what you think, is this the greatest YouTube video ever, or what?