Friday, November 24, 2006

Mature Reflections on Aging

A few months ago, my friend and I went to a little indoor, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf place that I love. It's Day-Glo inside with psychedelic decor and reminds me of a bar without the alcohol. Also, I developed an addiction to mini golf a few years back but only inside. Outside I find it really boring but I love this indoor place because there's great music and the holes have banks, so I feel more like I'm playing pool than golf because I'm banking most of my shots. And two years ago, I was the only female who qualified for a tournament at this place, and at the time there was a very handsome charming young manager who spent a lot of time with me.

Moving along, as my friend Anna would say, and returning to the subject of aging. My friend Cathie and I played our game of golf and I did better than her but being the thoughtful, sensitive person that I am, I subtracted a few points from her score so she wouldn't feel hopelessly depressed at the end of the game since it was her first time playing and I didn't want her experience of being deflowered to be unpleasant.

As we were leaving, one of the twentysomething kids who works there, and who I talk to all the time, was chatting with us. Cathie looked up at the sign above the cash, which said that seniors received discounts and that a senior was someone who was 55 years or older. Much to my dismay, Cathie volunteered the fact that she was over 55 and the twentysomething woman by the name of Andrea says, "No! You guys can't be over 55?" Cathie replies, "Yes" and I shout NO, NO, NO and point to Cathie and not me, although I'll be 54 in December, but don't tell anyone. I'm sure that when I do become 55, I will continue to argue with people and be happy to pay full price up until the age of 82 or so rather than having someone call me a senior.

How we feel with the passing of each decade and how differently society treats us is an issue that has preoccupied me since I turned 40. I made it one of the themes of my novel and am quoting a few passages from D'Amour Road here to give you a better idea why I like the song Forever Young. My main character, who is 39, is just leaving the apartment of a 25-year-old guy who she's fallen for. She is headed for the parking lot, feeling old.

As I was walking towards my car, I took off my jacket because the weather had turned humid. A scruffy looking pair of men walked past me. One had an unruly beard and the other had a leer on his face.
"Nice tits!" The second guy grinned at me.
"Up yours," I replied automatically. They both laughed. I walked faster to get away from them and put my jacket back on. I was annoyed, offended and repulsed, but I’m ashamed to admit that I felt vaguely flattered and pleased to have been noticed.
WAR (my women's collective) would consider me to be a lost cause, but I couldn't help but ask myself how many more years of sexual harassment I had left before I became completely invisible. Sheila and Diane often joked that one of the few benefits of being close to sixty was that they didn't have to deal with men whistling, calling them lewd names, and attempting to grope them on the street.
Once, I heard Germaine Greer on a talk show, saying that she’d lost her sex drive after menopause, and felt relieved not to be at the mercy of her hormones and desire anymore. Although my ardor for Alain had become painful, I definitely did not want to be "liberated" from it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

One of the Best DVDs of all times -- Six Feet Under

One of my all-time favorites is Six Feet Under. If you're not familiar with this Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series, run, don't walk, to the nearest store to rent Season One. You won't be sorry.

The fifth and final season of SFU was just released on DVD. Watching it is a lot like eating the last piece of fudge after Christmas. I want to savor it, rewind and play it again, delaying the inevitable finale. But all things must die and that’s one of the central points of this gem created by Alan Ball, who soared to celebrity with American Beauty.

Six Feet Under follows the lives of the Fisher family. Father Fisher is killed in a car accident. He leaves the family funeral parlor to his sons David (Michael C. Hall) and Nate (Peter Krause). David is an overly responsible, serious type who’s already been running the business with his dad. But Nate escaped to work in a health food store in Seattle, partly to get away from the constant presence of death, but also to avoid his quirky and crazy family. Now Nate must decide if he can forsake his freedom and commit to helping David so that the business doesn't fold. Loyalty versus following one's own heart.

This HBO show is full of ethical conflicts and philosophical questions about the meaning of our lives. Every episode starts out with a new person who dies and whose body will be embalmed in the Fisher's basement: some person who got up in the morning, assuming that it would be an ordinary day with its regular, mundane stresses and challenges, but it wasn't.

Six Feet Under is a “dramedy” that is funny as hell. It's also erotic and filled with endless conflicts, insights and struggles within relationships.

Maybe I won't finish Season Five; that way it will remain alive for me forever.


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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Suze Orman Kicks Ass!

If you have the misfortune to be home on a Saturday night, don't despair. One of the best things that you can do with your time is to tune in to CNBC and 9 p.m. to watch the Suze Orman show. Multimillionaire financial planner Orman is feisty, brilliant and quick on the draw. Her razor sharp mind allows her to analyze a wide variety of financial situations in a short period of time. She conducts live interviews, talks to people on camera, and answers desperate pleas on e-mail from people who need her advice about everything from how to get out of credit card debt, to the best way to mortgage a home, to handling conflict over money within relationships.

In fact, aside from offering astute monetary advice, Orman has an uncanny talent to discern who is in a healthy marriage or relationship and who is wallowing in toxic mire. Often, people call into the show thinking that their problem has to do with money, but Suze tells them that it really has to do with their spouse.

Orman recommends that people do what they love, even if they can't make a living at it. She suggests getting a second job or cutting back on one's lifestyle rather than giving up a satisfying career. A strong advocate of individual responsibility, Suze frequently advises parents not to give their adult children money but rather to pay off their credit card debt if they want to do something wonderful for them financially.

Orman is sincere and passionate; obviously, she cares about the people who contact her. However, at times she is too quick to judge a situation -- after all, she's not Dr. Phil! -- and I'm not always amused by the way that she teases her assistant Jeff about everything from his shoes to his girlfriend!

Nonetheless, Orman is hot and brimming with wisdom. Run out and buy one of her books on money management or set the DVR to tape her show if you're going out. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kinsey: Let's talk about sex -- Well worth watching!

Last year, I skipped the movie about pioneer sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey, because I thought that I already knew everything about him and that it might be dry. Was I ever wrong! The dialogue in the movie was crisp and unexpectedly funny and the acting was stellar. (What else could be expected from Liam Neeson, Chris O'Donnell and Laura Linney?)

The movie traced the puritanical and oppressive upbringing that poor Kinsey endured as a boy who was born in 1894 and raised by a fire and brimstone, preacher father. Those were the days when no one talked about masturbation and it was widely thought to cause blindness or insanity; oral sex was feared in the event that it resulted in infertility; and no one knew a clitoris from a clavicle!

Kinsey was one of the first to break down those barriers in the 1920s and 1930s. He started classes at university for young couples who were about to get married in order to give them proper sex education, rather than the abstinence message that they had been receiving in their hygiene class. He interviewed 18,000 people and wrote books about his findings, for which he was widely criticized because what he found was that there was a large disconnect between what people said was "moral" sexual behavior, and what they actually practiced behind closed doors.

Moreover, he stated that "37 percent of U.S. men (and 13 percent of women) had had at least one homosexual experience, while 62 percent of women (and 92 percent of men) masturbated. Premarital sex was common. Half of married men and a quarter of married women had cheated on their spouses." [Source -- National Geographic News]

In addition, Kinsey concluded that the majority of people were bisexual. This was during an era when adultery, homosexuality and oral sex were illegal in many states!

Kinsey had two great failings: firstly, as a zoologist, he could never understand that the human mammal with different from other animals. Humans had feelings that were intricately tied to their sexuality. Animals did not. Secondly, Kinsey's research methodology was questioned by many sources as being skewed and lacking objectivity. He interviewed most of his people face-to-face and then transcribed his findings. At least one quarter of his subjects were prison inmates, 5% were male prostitutes and they were all volunteers. A good research design should have a randomized study, preferably double blind so that the researcher and his assistants did not directly interpret data from subjects in order to avoid potential bias on their parts.

The movie clearly discussed Kinsey's first failing but was not explicit enough about the second one regarding research methodology. Having said that, Alfred Kinsey was an amazing man and this is an awesome movie. Great entertainment and it made me feel that despite our cultural ambivalence about sex, we definitely have come a long way, baby.

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Jonathan Fesmire -- Fantasy Author

Check out the awesome books by one of my MySpace friends! Jonathan Fesmire is a well-renowned fantasy writer who lives in California. His articles have appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, SpaceWays Weekly, Jackhammer, Lexikon, The Wandering Troll, and elsewhere. And he has done cover art for Venus Press, Twisted Dreams Magazine, Gryphonwood Magazine, Andrea Dean Van Scyock's novel, "A Man of Two Worlds," and Joseph Yakel's novel, "The Legend of Juggin Joe."

Listen to the free audiobook version of Children of Rhatlan at Podiobooks.Com. Then post comments about it here.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Missing in Ottawa -- Gina Smith

To my great surprise, I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen the other day about a woman by the name of Gina Smith who has apparently been missing from Ottawa for almost two years. Could have fooled me. With all of the publicity that surrounded other women who disappeared in this town starting with my own friend and acquaintance, Louise Ellis, and moving on to Ardeth Wood and Jennifer Teague, how could someone else have gone under the radar without receiving a tremendous amount of media attention?

Easy. She was a drug addict and a prostitute. Does that sound familiar? Think East Side of Vancouver and the dozens of sex trade workers who ended up on Robert Pickton's pig farm.

Recently, bones have been discovered in the Rideau Canal and the police are wondering if they belong to Gina Smith. She disappeared under suspicious circumstances in that she was about to testify against her old boss and ex-lover, saying that he had "threatened to bash her head in with a hammer." No one questioned the fact that she didn't appeared in court because people without addresses are often dismissed as "transients" who move from place to place.

Andrew Seymour of the Ottawa Citizen, source for this article, wrote that Gina was "lost before she disappeared." So true, so sad and so infuriating that we haven't evolved to the level where we treat all people equally regardless of their occupation or circumstances.