Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, My Canada. What Will you Be?

Canada is .... fill in the blank. Canada is not easily defined, like a teenager about to become an adult we are stilll growing and changing and perhaps that is what makes our country unique

Canada is ... a linking of disparate cultures. A refusal to melt, but sometimes, a willingness to bend toward one another.

Canada is ... a country whose citizens worship many different gods, or none.

Canada is ... a country working towards tolerance Canadians want to believe that our country is ... accepting, open and peaceful . That is the story we tell ourselves. We can make it a reality. It's up to all of us.

Happy Canada Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blink, Blink, Blink. Books. What's My Job Now?

After my cataracts were slurped away and the shiny new lenses were put in, it took me quite a while to recover to the point where I could focus on print for more than a few minutes. Now fortunately, my visual acuity has improved and I finally have new glasses and a new view on the world. I see my wrinkles more clearly now so I have decided to let the bathroom mirror remain hazy. I also see more dust and may have to close the blinds more often. I blink more now too - I was always a good blinker - so perhaps if I blink and bob my head at the same time I can make the dust bunnies disappear.

When I couldn't read, I spent more time listening to CBC radio One and also paid more regular visits to Tim Hortons. I can see the results of that too, and a future sans pastries has commenced.

It's lovely to be able to read again and I have to take a moment to recommend the BOY, by Betty Jane Hegerat, published by Oolichan Books, Fernie British Columbia, 2011. Hegerat weaves non-fiction and fiction together in a unique way as she writes about two boys, one her fictional creation, and the other, the convicted killer of his entire family (based on the murders of the Cook family in 1959). It made me think about all the influences that shape us during our growing-up years. It also made me ponder how quick we are to judge people who don't fit. If I were giving out stars, it would receive five out of five. It's well-written, thought provoking and riveting. That's a rare combination, I'd say.

I also read Never Say Die, The Myth and Marketing of The New Old Age by Susan Jacoby, Pantheon Books New York, 2011. Because gerontology is one of my interests, and because I'm one of the young old, I occasionally read this kind of work. Jacoby debunks the myth that old age can be defied, or should be deified, and will make every American who reads this book worry about what they are likely to face when they enter their late 80's early 90's and are frail. The American health care system, or lack thereof, will face a crisis of funding. Oh, the wealthy will be able to afford the latest and greatest in new body parts and treatments, but the oldest, poorest and sickest people (almost all of them will be women) will suffer.

Canada will also have problems (who elected those damned Conservatives), however, at the moment we have a one-payer system which is more efficient - and could be still more efficient, if certain measures were instituted. The book also led me to consider "the ethics of longevity" which she examines in the tenth chapter.

The third book I want to mention came out last year. Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America; by Matt Taibbi, published by Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2010. Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine. When he began to look at the causes of the huge financial crisis/market crash of 2008, he was stunned to discover how it had happened and how easily it can and probably will happen again. This book was not an easy read, not just because there is a lot of technical information (I had to read some sections twice) but also because of the information that illustrates how the amoral "grifters" transferred so much wealth to themselves at the expense of ordinary folk and will continue to do so. The writer uses very frank language in places so if you dislike colourful swearing, be warned. Be warned also that if you are thinking of investing in the stock market, don't put anything in that you can't afford to lose. Actually, unfortunately, we are all indirectly invested in the stock market thanks to governments, etc. but we can't do anything about the indirect stuff. Sorry. It's a book that will give you a slow burn.

And finally, an observation.

"What's my job now?" My friend, The Bear, who suffers from memory loss and confusion asked me that the other day.

He will be 83 next month and resides in an assisted living facility. I thought about that for a minute and then I said "Your job now is just to be you. That's all."

"Oh, yeah, I can do that," he said.

What's your job?