Oct 23/11

Of all performers of the 80s, few are as iconic as Boy George. Lead singer of Culture Club, he arrested the attention of fans with his feminine appearance.

Culture Club had at least half a dozen top ten hits. Karma Chameleon made number 1 (holding for three weeks in 1984).

For all the boldness implied by Boy George's drag-queen presence on stage, the band's music exuded quiet self- assurance. Their songs were medium tempo, with Caribbean as well as Celtic folk overtones. The lyrics were thoughtful. In my opinion, they were ahead of their time.

Move Away was my favourite of theirs, though it wasn't the smash that Karma Chameleon was.

I have a final comment: Boy George looked fantastic in drag. I remember, at a talent show, seeing an air band performance of Karma Chameleon when I was a kid in Middle School. That performance stole the show. The fourteen-year-old girl who played Boy George (and looked just like him) hypnotized the audience as she casually danced around the stage. She was Boy George for those five minutes.

Of course, Karma Chameleon came from the album Colour by Numbers (1983). Well, looking very colourful indeed, here's our man of the day: Boy George. By being yourself, George, you opened doors for many others.

Thanks for stopping by. See you tomorrow.

Boy George Home

Oct 24/11

Patrick Swayze's death in 2009 - at age 57 - was one I noticed.

I confess I haven't seen much of Patrick's work - although I did see Dirty Dancing. I've also heard "She's Like the Wind" on the radio many times.

The first glimpse I caught of Patrick, however, was in North and South in 1985. I was 15, so it wasn't my kind of show, but there it was and there he was. Patrick was 33 then, and very compelling. He also had a very distinct face. I didn't know whether he was good- looking or not, but I just wanted to keep watching.

Dirty Dancing might have been the best feel-good movie in the past 25 years. It was a low-budget film that even its owners thought would only last one week-end in the theatres. They sure got that one wrong, eh? Swayze, with his good looks (by then I'd realized he was good looking) and fantastic energy, ushered the weary Friday night theatre crowd into a wonderland they didn't want to leave.

After his cancer diagnosis, Swayze lead in the acclaimed TV series The Beast on A&E. Thirteen episodes were shown from January to April 2009. More than one critic commented that Swayze, sick from cancer, was nevertheless giving the best performance of his career. Swayze died that same year, on September 24.

Busy working and raising my young kids, I regret I never watched The Beast. I hope to make up for that some day.

Shown above is Patrick in his young days; the second picture is how he looked in The Beast.

We love you, Patrick. Thanks for everything.


Oct 25/11

Only two months left 'til Christmas! Hope you've almost got your shopping done....

My mother-in-law prides herself on being done her Christmas shopping by September 30. I'm not nearly that organized, but I do manage better some years than others. Last year, I think, I was done by December 22. I don't generally handle money; when I need some, I ask my wife for it. So it's hard for me to keep secrets.

Another seasonal note: we officially had frost last night. The Environment Canada website reported -1 degrees Celsius this morning as I checked the weather before sending my kids to school. That means I need to bring in my grapefruit and lime trees, which are both in pots. They live six months inside, six months outside. They're about ten years old now; they never really grow, but they're healthy enough.

Let's move to another lifestyle topic: daytime TV. My wife watches two main ones: the American Young and Restless and of course Corrie.

Coronation Street is very high quality, but too real (for me). Every time I watch, someone's life is getting torn apart or else someone's been murdered or been accused of murder. Extortion, extramarital affairs, intolerance against same-sex relationships...you'll find it all on that common street. I can't really watch it regularly, else I'll get drawn in and really start caring about the characters even more than I do. Then more terrible things would happen to them.

Take Tony Gordon, for example. Tony is (was) a murderer, but you know, I liked Tony. He died in a fire (on the show) last year.

My wife says I prefer fatally flawed people (ironic, she follows, that I'm married to her).

Tony, you're our man of the day.

Thanks for stopping by. See you tomorrow.

Tony from Coronation Street Home

Oct 26/11

Well, the stormy, rainy weather is upon us here on the west coast. It's grey, windy and warm (plus 7). At eight o'clock in the morning, it's still dark outside. If you don't have lights on (I turn them all off after everyone else leaves), it's still dark in the house until 8:30. It's really fall.

One issue I'd like to address today is the "living in the dark" idea. I don't use lights much, but my wife always likes to have the light on in a room. Of course, we know that computer geeks are famous for sitting in the dark at their computers. Why?

I think I have the answer: the energy crisis in the early '80s. I didn't know why at the time, but as a kid I was told all lights should always be "off" unless there was a compelling reason to have them on. Therefore, if you weren't reading or working, they were off. To this day, I feel uncomfortable in a well-lit room, but very comfortable in the dark.

Of course, the computer nerd (which I am) first arrived in the early '80s with the first home computers - simultaneous with the energy crisis. You didn't need a light on to read the screen; hence, you used your computer in the dark.

On the theme of darkness: let's go on to a very dark movie, Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. I love that movie. In many ways it was liberating, seeing people not worrying about everyday drudgery. They were in control. Even Vincent Vega (played excellently by John Travolta) was in control, though he was about to die. Butch (Bruce Willis) wasn't in control, but Bruce is always at his best when his character isn't.

Uma Thurman, of course, was beautiful and amazing as Mia Wallace. She brought understated femininity to a very masculine setting. The scene with Travolta at the restaurant - though it probably lasted only five minutes (recall the "five dollar milkshake") was magic. Who was more beautiful - her or Travolta? I can't say for sure.

This drawing is not from her Pulp Fiction role, because I found her likeness from that movie was too cartoon-esque.

Uma, you gave a memorable performance in a very memorable film, alongside lots of heavyweights. We salute you.

Uma Thurman Home

Oct 26/11 evening posting

Of the people I most remember from the last decade, Carly Fiorina is in the top five.

I remember seeing Carly on the front page of a newspaper - possibly the National Post - facing a crowd. She was, I think, defending her decision to acquire Compaq (she was CEO of HP at the time). Of course, the acquisition succeeded, in spite of strong opposition. William Hewlett was against it.

Carly was not afraid of controversy. She attracted attention of many Americans as she argued that the US had lost its monopoly in tech, and so had to compete for those jobs just like any other country. She was right, of course, although many people - Lou Dobbs, for instance - suspected she was encouraging offshoring.

In 2005, Carly resigned from HP, receiving $20 million in severance. Her tenure there meets mixed reviews. I think, for better or worse, she presided over - rather than caused - some key inevitabilities in tech. She was never boring.

Here's to you, Carly, for being where the action was.

Carly Fiorina Home

Oct 27/11

I didn't know that Golda Meir (1898-1978) moved to Milwaukee when she was about eight. Her father worked in the railroad yard there, while her mother ran a grocery store on Milwaukee's north side. They had come from Belarus - earlier, from Kiev, in present-day Ukraine.

While still in high school, Golda embraced socialist Zionism. She attended teachers college and later taught in Milwaukee Public Schools, but she and her husband left the US to join a kibbutz in Palestine in 1921.

Meir joined the Executive Committee of the Histadrut - the collective of Israeli trade unions - in 1934. In 1938, she attended the Évian Conference, at which delegates from 32 countries discussed the plight of the Jews in Europe. None - save the Dominican Republic, which admitted 100 000 refugees - contributed materially, although their delegates expressed regret.

Always courageous and determined, Meir rose up through the government in Israel, eventually being elected Prime Minister in 1969.

Controversy surrounds Meir's key decision not to launch a pre-emptive strike before the Yom Kippur War. Meir was briefed on October 5, 1973, that Syria seemed to be preparing to attack. However, October 6 was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.(Furthermore, the Yom Kippur War is also called the Ramadan War). Meir - and her famous advisor, Defense Minister Dayan - decided an immediate attack from Syria was unlikely. On the other hand, David Elazar, an Israeli general, advocated full mobilization and even a pre-emptive strke to prevent the possible Syrian attack. Dayan and Meir agreed, however, that to be the aggressor would put Israel in the wrong (from the rest of the world's point of view). Furthermore, neither really believed the attack would come the next day.

As it turned out, Syria and Egypt did attack Israel on the 6th of October. Caught unprepared, Israel rallied and contained the Syrian and Egyptian invasion forces. However, many suggested that Golda Meir was responsible for Israel's being attacked at all, because she could have prevented it by ordering a pre-emptive strike against Syria. Henry Kissinger agreed with Meir and Dayan: to attack pre-emptively would have been a bad idea.

Meir's party won re-election that December, but she resigned the following April, feeling the people wanted her to go.

Two important speculations surround Meir and the Yom Kippur War. One is that she felt, in her heart, that out of religious respect, her neighbours wouldn't attack on Yom Kippur. The other is that she never forgave herself for that miscalculation.

To be sure, Golda Meir was an idealist. She left the comfort of the US for a kibbutz in Palestine in 1921. She worked her whole life to achieve a fair society for her people. And - perhaps - she trusted her enemies too much.

As to the cause of Zionism, that is difficult for a non-Jew to understand. However, we can safely say that she struggled her whole life to try to create for the Jewish people a safe homeland. Is that Zionism or nationalism?

Wikipedia was used a source for this article.

Golda Meir Home

Oct 28/11

Martha was born in 1941 to a Jersey City middle-class family. She was a member of the Art Club in high school (in our books, a plus). She went on to complete a double major in History and Architectural History at Barnard College, New York. In 1967, she became a stockbroker.

In 1976, Stewart started a catering business out of her basement. Connections developed in that business led to her first book, Entertaining(1982) - a New York Times bestseller. Of course, the success of Entertaining led to other books: seven more in the 80's. Her fame from her books - combined with her knowledge of the topics they explored - made her an attractive guest for famous talk shows such as Oprah and Larry King Live.

Martha Stewart Living hit the stands in 1990, with Martha as editor-in-chief. Her television program began as a half-hour once a week, but quickly changed to a daily full-hour program. In 1995, on the cover of New York Magazine, she was denoted 'the definitive American woman of our time.'

Martha founded Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 1997, with herself as CEO. In 1999, it went public. That day - October 19, 1999 - Martha became a billionaire. The stock was offered at $18, but rose to $38 that day.

As a result of some insider trading, Martha did go to jail for five months from Oct 2004 to March 2005. Her unfair trade - had she gotten away with it - would have saved her $45 673. Her business slumped but she was back in the black in 2006. Her TV show (as well as her appearance on other shows) continues, along with her magazine and her product lines. From her billionaire days, her net worth has withdrawn to a mere $638 million.

I love Martha Stewart. Although I don't have time to watch her show, I used to watch it years ago. She's an engaging host and she pours a good drink.

I was too young to realize, but in the '80s the art of homemaking began an incredible revival (probably because, in large part, women weren't homemakers any more). Martha's talent for entertaining, cooking, sewing, and interior design attracted attention; her timing was perfect. But did she cause the interest in homemaking, or just feed the hunger?

One thing you'll notice on her show if you don't live in the Northeast or Los Angeles (or Chicago) is Martha's urban-American identity. She'll mention something like "I got this cocoa at Cecconi's in Manhattan, but you can get it at Smith's in LA if you're out there." New York really is its own world, rather like a European country. If you're way out in BC, Canada, (or Houston, Texas, for that matter) where do you get your cocoa?

A comment: Americans have a fascination with jail: who ends up there, and what for. I'm not sure what that's about, but I imagine it goes back to their Puritan roots. Those Puritans, in my opinion, still half-run the United States.

By the way: Martha's one sexy dame.

Wikipedia was used as a source for this article.

Martha Stewart Home

Oct 29/11

Weather report: two Celsius, cloudy. Mist is hanging in low- lying areas.

Following up on the Martha Stewart entry yesterday, I want to talk a little more about domestic issues. I'm behind in mine, of course, so I need to get back to them today. Between my blog, work, and computer problems, this week's been pretty full. However, the computer problems seem to be solved. We can hope, anyway.

Yard work is more straightforward than computer maintenance, to be sure. There is the added benefit that you get fresh air and exercise when you work in your yard.

Today I'm hoping to harvest most of the ripe compost in at least one of my bins. I'll spread that compost over a troubled patch on my lawn - the last one left, really, after a seven-year battle for the lawn's health. The patch is about thirty square feet, and it's under a high Douglas fir. When we bought the house, there was a cedar chip trail through there. That's the last part the lawn hasn't successfully colonized.

Of course, we'll also buy pumpkins today for Halloween. (I hope there's still some left.) I love jack-o-lanterns. I love the smell of the burning candle in the pumpkin and the orange glow they radiate. Our house is decorated for Hallowe'en; about half is stuff the kids made.

We also have a face today, of course: Benazir Bhutto. Besides being very beautiful, she was the first woman elected head of a Muslim nation. She was Prime Minister of Pakistan twice: 1988-1990 and 1993-1996.

Bhutto's father had been prime minister, but was overthrown in a coup. She was arrested and held in deplorable conditions after his removal from power. Finally, in 1988, she was able to run in Pakistan's first election since 1977.

Benazir's political directions are difficult to understand. At home, her economic policies were definitely capitalist. Abroad, she sought closer ties with socialist and communist nations, including Libya, North Korea, and Vietnam. Yet, Mustafa Abu al-Yahid of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for her assassination in 2007. He claimed she could be tremendously helpful to America.

As a woman who led a complex country in a tough neighbourhood, Benazir Bhutto is our face of the day.

Wikipedia was used as a source for this article.

See you tomorrow.

Benazir Bhutto Home

Oct 30/11

Margaret Thatcher has been England's only woman prime minister. She took office in 1979. Deepening recession followed in the early '80s, relaxing during 1982. (Unemployment, however, reached a high of 3.3 million in 1984.) By 1987 - the year she won election to a third term - unemployment was declining and the economy was healthy.

On the foreign front, England won the Falklands War in 1982. The Cold War raged on, Thatcher aligning England firmly with Reagan's America: Thatcher supported England's participation in the Arms Race against the Communists.

Having steered England through very challenging times, she was ousted by her own party (a betrayal, from her point of view) in 1990, so resigned.

Thatcher did not believe the government could maintain a high standard of living for the people. She believed that only the people's own productivity could do so.

When I was a kid, you heard "Maggie Thatcher" many times a day. People were worried about the Cold War. From many people's point of view, Thatcher and Reagan, side by side, beat communism.

Maragaret, you earned it: you're our face of the day.

Wikipedia was used as a source for this article.

See you tomorrow.

Margaret Thatcher Home

Oct 31/11

Here's number seven of our seven-women series: Michèle Bennett-Duvalier.

She was born in 1950. As you can see, the years have been kind to Michèle.

Michèle married Jean-Claude Duvalier (Haitian president, 1971-1986) in 1980. She is a controversial figure because the Duvaliers' regime attracted attention for the inequity between the elite and the common people. Starting with their three million dollar wedding (Haitian GDP per capita was $243 that year), the Duvaliers lived a life of obvious extravagance while the common people of Haiti were very poor. In fact, it is estimated that by the 80s, 45% of Haiti's national income went to just one percent of the population. (countrystudies.us/haiti/44.htm)

Even the Pope noticed the inequity. When he visited Haiti in 1983, he declared, "Things must change here."

In 1986, Michèle and her husband had to leave power - in an American plane. They went to France.

Details about the conduct of the Duvaliers and Bennetts during Jean-Claude's presidency are getting easier to find. You can even see a video highlighting some of Jean-Claude and Michèle's lavish lifestyle on YouTube. Three years ago, when the Duvaliers first came to my attention, it was very hard to find pictures of Michèle. It's much easier now. Of course, I want to do my part, contributing this drawing.

You always had a beautiful face, Michèle.

Michèle still lives in France.


Wikipedia: Michèle Bennett

Wikipedia: Jean-Claude Duvalier



There is much more reading, including www.travelinghaiti.com

Michèle Bennett-Duvalier Home