Archive for September, 2009

29
Sep
09

Bad Manners on Broadway! Hugh Jackman calls out cell phone call

Just the other day we were observing how respect for special occasions (the theatre, ballet, movies, concerts … ) seems to be diminishing. Today the head lines are focusing on Broadway and Hugh Jackman’s management of a cell phone interruption to his performance.

I’m sure all cell phone users have had the unfortunate experience of forgetting to turn off the phone in a group setting; it should be very embarrassing. I say “should” because of the arrogance we’ve observed when some people apparently feel no shame whatsoever. Cell phones have been around long enough now, as have the signs and messages requesting they be turned off, that there really is no excuse for an errant disruptive ring. Though clearly annoyed, Jackman remained composed and polite – showing great patience even when the phone rang again. I don’t know about you but taunting the Wolverine seems a bit risky to me! Make it a habit to turn off your phone whenever its ring might be considered disruptive whether it be while having coffee with a friend or attending a special function or meeting.

Now about recording Broadway performances on your video camera …

25
Sep
09

Good Deeds Day

acts of kindness

 

 

Today we are at Momcafe, with one of our favourite charities Dress for Success Vancouver, where Susan and I are collecting much needed apparel for their clients.

 Dress for Success is a registered Canadian charity that helps low and no income women to transition into the workforce by providing professional attire.  Each Dress for Success client receives a suit for her interviews and a small working wardrobe when she gets her job.

 

 

Today is also Good Deeds Day at The Vancouver Sun and CKNW – an entire day devoted to good deeds of B.C. citizens.  It can be as simple as holding a door open for a stranger or volunteering at a local charity…

 How do you celebrate? Tell us about your random act of kindness! Together, we can spread compassion and goodwill across Vancouver!

21
Sep
09

Connecting Through Books – A Tale of Friendship

We love the power of books and we love hearing stories of people reaching out to others (see our Random Acts of Courtesy post)  Hope you enjoy and feel inspired!

 

Jenna Russell, The Boston Globe, July 5, 2009

At the crest of Beacon Hill in a well-appointed room, the Tuesday morning book club is tearing a novel apart.

The critique, on this warm early summer day, is merciless, and as it heats up, the meeting crackles with complaints. There should have been more clues to help the reader unravel the mystery, Donnie insists. Ned, between bites of a glazed doughnut, dismisses a main character as unbelievable. Rob is irked by the same character’s inconsistencies.

“For someone who knows everything about her son, she doesn’t know a damn thing,’’ Rob says, his voice dark with disappointment.

The men drinking coffee at the round wooden table are dressed casually in sweat shirts, jeans, and sneakers. Some of their faces are lined beyond their years. But as they deftly flip through paperbacks assessing literary merit, there is no sign their lives are anything but normal.

For two lively hours every Tuesday morning, in a church meeting room with old oil portraits, they are book club members first and homeless people second.

The story of the book club, now in its 10th month, is a tale of ordinary city life upended. It began with a stunningly unlikely friendship, between two men from different worlds: Peter Resnik, a high-powered lawyer on his way to work, and Rob, a homeless man guarding a friend’s shopping cart on Boston Common. Through months of daily conversations, that began with jokes and sports talk and gradually delved deeper, they found a common interest: literature. And when they saw the bridge that they had built, they recognized its potential for others.

In a short time, they say, the book club has proved its power to reach homeless people and build their confidence. Emboldened by its success, Ron Tibbetts, a Beacon Hill church deacon and longtime homeless outreach worker, has launched plans to replicate it. His new nonprofit group, the Oasis Coalition, aims to establish dozens of small social groups citywide, filling the gaps left by large, institutional programs that offer the homeless food and shelter but little or no personal connection.

“It’s five people in a book group, not 5,000 people fed, but it’s five people I can pull aside and talk to,’’ Tibbetts said.

When talk flows at the book club, the dynamic that emerges is pure and powerful. The members are equals, linked by what they read and respected for their insights. Their discussions, held at Swedenborgian Church on the Hill, are both a stimulus and a respite for people used to staying focused on survival – where to sleep and how to stay dry – rather than the themes and symbols of fiction.

Last Tuesday, they tackled O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,’’ mulling the idea of objects as identity. Donnie, 47, said he understood the insecurities of Della, the character who cuts her hair and sells it to buy her beloved a watch chain.

“When I was a kid, I wore my hair long, and I took pride in it,’’ he told the group, leaning back into a plump settee. “One night, my mother came in drunk and cut it off, right down to the scalp, and after that I wasn’t the same person anymore. My confidence went out the window.’’

A former Marine who has been homeless off and on since he developed health problems that left him unable to work, Donnie said he likes the camaraderie, and the normalcy, of the book club.

“We’re real people,’’ he said. “You see us on the street and the sidewalk, and a lot of people think the homeless are dirty and drunk, but even those people, there’s a soul in there.’’

. . .

To Peter Resnik, the downtown lawyer on his way to work, the homeless people he saw on the Common did not become real all at once. He talked to Rob and Rob’s friend Chris for months – often, in the beginning, about basketball – before he saw them as friends, and worked up the courage to ask whether they wanted to get off the streets.

Given the distance between their two worlds, it seems extraordinary that they ever talked at all. “It struck me as amazing,’’ said Rob.

Resnik, 64, woke each morning in his home in the Back Bay, where he had moved with his wife and three children from Hingham. An English major at Yale, he moved to Boston for law school and joined the global firm McDermott, Will & Emery, where he rose to prominence trying high-profile product liability cases. He represented one of the makers of the Fen-Phen diet drug, and the foam manufacturer sued by victims of the Rhode Island nightclub fire.

Tall, trim, and quietly good-humored, Resnik almost always walked to his office, on the 34th floor of a gleaming State Street tower. Whenever he had time, he took the scenic, slightly longer route through the Common.

Rob, 50, rose each day from a sleeping bag rolled out on the stained sidewalk beside Tremont Street, where he slept in the doorway of an Army recruiting station. A Woburn native, he attended Catholic high school, joined the Army, and later worked in warehouses and as a courier. Six or seven years ago, feeling overworked and exhausted, he was fired from his job for taking too much sick time, he said. He fell behind on his rent and started living on the streets.

Compact and wiry, with cropped gray hair and a shy but agreeable nature, Rob headed to the Common early every morning after being roused by the Tremont Street businesses opening.

There, on a maple-shaded walkway near the playground, the homeless man stood each day and greeted passersby, who ignored him, insulted him, or gave him money. Resnik always said hello, and one spring day two years ago, he stopped to talk.

The lawyer says he wasn’t on a philanthropic mission. He struggles to explain what it was that drew his interest. But day after day, talking with Rob and Rob’s friend, what he found was not what he expected. The homeless men kept up-to-date on sports and current events. They looked after each other, and watched out for others on the streets.

And Rob, he discovered – Rob liked to read.

Resnik brought him a copy of “Water for Elephants,’’ a novel set during the Great Depression, about a veterinary student who joins a traveling circus. Then he brought him “The Kite Runner.’’ Standing on the Common, they talked about the books. And, there the idea for the book club was born.

Resnik buys the books, Rob makes the coffee, and Tibbetts leads the discussions and recruits readers, toting extra volumes in his backpack when he roams the streets. Because their lives are unstable, the roster of participants is always changing. The club has included people staying in shelters and with friends, and others given rooms through city or state programs. The number has ranged from four or five to a dozen. The members interviewed for this story asked that their last names not be used.

Since their first meeting in September, they have read “Water for Elephants,’’ “Angela’s Ashes’’ by Frank McCourt, and “A Monk Swimming’’ by McCourt’s brother Malachy. They read “The Glass Castle,’’ a memoir by Jeannette Walls, whose tale of her neglectful parents left them deeply troubled, and at Donnie’s request, they read essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, an assignment almost everyone else found tough slogging. Some of their best discussions centered on “All Souls: A Family Story from Southie,’’ Michael Patrick MacDonald’s memoir of his childhood in South Boston.

At the start, Resnik offered to bring lunch each week.

The founding members of the book club turned him down, and settled on coffee and doughnuts instead. They had enough free meals, they said, they wanted something else – camaraderie and stimulating talk.

“You can’t solve the problem of homelessness, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help some people,’’ said Resnik. “You can do something, with minimal sacrifice, if you stay with it.’’

. . .

For people trying hard just to find a place to sleep, a book club may be nice, but it isn’t always easy. For starters, people on the streets can’t read after dark. In shelters, noise and chaos shatter concentration. When Donnie stayed at the Long Island Shelter in Boston, he read on a bench by the showers, the quietest spot he could find in the complex.

Just hanging on to a book is difficult when you have to carry everything you own. As much as reading meant to him, said Donnie, he had to prioritize the things he needed for survival.

“If it’s a book or socks,’’ he said, “I’m pitching the book.’’

The struggle pays off, book club members said, in the rush of accomplishment they carry from each meeting.

Last week, Tibbetts told the group about a prospective member with a problem: a homeless man who longs to devour books, but reads at a fourth-grade level.

“Get him here,’’ said Donnie, as Rob nodded agreement. “It’s a good start, being here.’’

For Rob, the unexpected friendship he forged on the Common has been transformative. When Resnik learned that an old traffic ticket had blocked his homeless friend from getting a room through the city, he drove him to a court in Palmer, where he represented him pro bono and resolved the case. Because of that kindness, Rob is off the streets. He has found a part-time job as a church custodian and volunteers his time serving meals to homeless people.

Resnik, meanwhile, is helping to raise money to replicate the book club.

“You can walk by somebody who you know is going to ask you for a buck, but if you know their name, you can’t walk by,’’ the lawyer said. “You can’t sleep comfortably if someone you know is sleeping outside.’’

Jenna Russell can be reached at jrussell@globe.com.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

18
Sep
09

Well-Dressed Man

well dressed man

Hello Gentlemen, this is for you! Enjoy!

Well-Dressed Man

15
Sep
09

Sportsmanship Counts!

Piste or pitch, rink or ring, course or courts … there is a code of conduct for each one and sportsmanship counts! One could call it grace, often under pressure, and nowhere is it more important or respected than in sport. As a family with two growing young athletes within, we spend a lot of time either engaged in sport or watching the professionals. There are some wonderful life lessons to be learned and heart-warming stories to share. I can honestly say I enjoy almost every sport and mostly for the stories of hard work, achievement and yes, grace. Which all leads up to how inevitably shocking and disappointing it is when the athletes go off the rails and present really poor behaviour. Serena Williams at the US Open is the most recent example in a sadly growing list of athletes who lose their cool on camera. Watching the footage from the tournament and the many clips of Serena’s, not one, but two outbursts led me to the following considerations:
1. Are we right to expect professional athletes to serve as role models?
2. Did anyone else notice that the crowd at the US Open is typically more rowdy and vocal than say, Wimbledon? Did this contribute to the scene? Is there a tournament culture?
3. Are these outbursts becoming more common?
4. Are we seeing more rude behaviour and disrespect among young athletes as a result of watching these outbursts on television?
Let us know what you think!

09
Sep
09

Commuter Etiquette

Vancouver's New "Canada Line"

Vancouver's New "Canada Line"

Here in Vancouver we have a new commuter train system which has me thinking of the etiquette of public spaces – train doors, elevators, escalators, stairwells and so on.  We’ve all found ourselves in awkward situations when passing through these portals so here are a few tips to smooth your way.

  • Stay right!  Whenever approaching a staircase, think like a driver and get your caboose to the right. Climb on the right side and descend on the right side. When everyone stays rights then collisions are avoided and traffic flows smoothly.
  • The same rules apply to escalators but be sure to remain standing at the right side to allow a passing lane to be used to your left. Keep briefcases and umbrellas and bags close to you or held in front so as not to block the way of those who chose to climb rather than ride.
  • When approaching the doors to an elevator or a train, step aside to allow the disembarking passengers to exit first. When the exodus has occurred, you can get on without panic. If you are the disembarking passenger, be sure to be prepared for the stop or floor and be swift in your exit to allow others time to board calmly.
  • Once inside the elevator or train carriage, be sure to move as far in as possible to allow room for those following behind.
  • If you are wedged against the call panel in the elevator be sure to ask others if you can push their floor button for them.
  • As in any public space, be aware that your conversations whether on a mobile phone or with a companion, are likely to be overheard.  Be discreet and respectful of noise levels.

Have a happy commute today!

04
Sep
09

Are Heels Dead?

shoes

Just as we’d managed to convince ourselves that 7in heels were a practical footwear option, rather than the modern equivalent of Chinese foot-binding, designers have made a radical U-turn. Flats are back. You could call it fashion’s banking crisis: heels rose to unsustainable heights and, as with the recession, no one quite saw the fall coming.

Of course, a drop in heel height isn’t going to affect the security of your home or job, but the power of stilettos in a work environment shouldn’t be underestimated. Last week the Trades Union Congress announced that high heels are demeaning to women and should not be worn in the office. Make of this what you will, but its suggestion that women should wear “sensible shoes” has inadvertently put the TUC in the same style camp as Vogue — and it is unclear which party is more surprised.

News that pancake soles are the new vanguard of style will be a shock for many women (not to mention their shortened Achilles tendons). Sales of flat shoes may be up by 20 per cent at Selfridges, but the thrill of prancing about on a pair toughened knitting needles is impossible to re-create with both feet safely on the ground .

Let’s be clear, even though Christopher Kane, Hannah MacGibbon at Chloé, Calvin Klein and Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz endorsed flat shoes on the catwalk, your old scuffed ballet slippers will not be at the forefront of fashion next season. That would be too straightforward.

Kane, who is fast becoming one of the most influential designers around, is adamant about the type of flats he deems acceptable. “Is it ballet pumps?” he asks, “In my opinion, no; flats need to be more boyish.” They must to have attitude too. “I wanted to have a harder, more masculine edge to the collection and flat shoes provide that in one hit.” In short, it’s curtains for all those attitude heels that have seen us through the past five years.

Ten years ago, when shoes were a pleasant after-thought rather than a showcase for fashion experimentation, a pair of pointy courts answered almost every footwear requirement. Before that, only Manolo Blahnik challenged established shoe perimeters. One of his first collections in 1971 included The Brick. A stonking piece of craftsmanship, the shoe included a mammoth patent block sole that must have made the wearer about a foor taller.

Manolos satisfied the creatives, but it took more than 20 years for avant-garde and über-glamorous shoes to come to the masses — or at least to the celebrities. Tamara Mellon, the accessories editor of British Vogue in the mid-1990s, spotted a gap in the market for aspirational heels and approached a certain Mr Jimmy Choo. Footwear was never the same again. The red carpet gave Choo acres of publicity, and Sex and the City’s Carrie, with her almost pathological devotion to heels (“I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes”), added fuel to the fire.

Then Christian Louboutin’s red soles arrived and we were seduced all over again. Being French and determined, Louboutin raised the heel stakes, adding a concealed platform sole for extra lift and then later doubling it because, presumably, our ankles had toughened to the challenge. Fast-forward again and we now have a high street that sets its own perilous heel trends, as well as a batch of young designers who have created heel-less heels, go-faster spikes and scooped-out wedges (by Antonio Berardi ) that defy gravitational pull.

Ingrid Collins, a clinical psychologist, believes that the seductiveness of beautiful heels is related to the foot being a peripheral part of the body. “Feet are covered up for the majority of the year and are farthest away from our awareness,” she says. “The better-looking the shoe, the more it compensates for the feeling that our feet are objects rather than aesthetically pleasing parts of our bodies.” So there you have it. Feet are only worthwhile when they are encased in artfully crafted heels. What they will become when they are dragged around in a pair of stocky brogues is anyone’s guess.

Nevertheless, Sebastian Manes, the director of accessories at Selfridges, thinks that shoe trends are going one way only. “Last season the high heel moved away from being sexy and became very avant-garde — this season designers prove that the flat shoe is not boring or conservative. It is as fashion-forward as heels.”

Flats also satisfy our requirements to appear less ostentatious these days. Pam Brady, the shoe buyer for Browns, which opened its first standalone footwear boutique in January, is convinced that stepping off our heels is a result of the recession. “People don’t want to be showy in this economic climate; there’s a trend towards understated style. Ironically, flats may well cost as much as showier heels, but the perception of them is very different.” Dries Van Noten, for instance, is selling tasselled loafers for £415 (brownsfashion.com).Unfortunately, going flat doesn’t necessarily mean saving money.

The level of foot pain is also poles apart. Claire Foster, the associate footwear editor at the fashion trend forecasting publication WGSN, certainly isn’t fighting the trend. “Heels make you feel more confident, but they also restrict your movements. Yes, flats are less elegant, but they enable the wearer to do more, which is empowerment in a different sense.” Put like that, it seems strange that women have put up for so long with such impossible foot protectors.

A change in footwear trends doesn’t just affect what we put on our feet; there’s an inevitable knock-on to what we wear on our bodies, too. After all, a pair of mannish penny loafers (another key style for winter) worn with an unforgiving pencil skirt will be difficult to pull off for even the lithest of figures. Still, French Vogue’s editor Carine Roitfeld wore flats at the Cannes Film Festival — this from a woman who once admitted to wearing heels even with her tracksuit bottoms .

Roitfeld might have encouraged our compulsion to totter on wobbly works of art, but even she couldn’t halt the march of the androgynous look, from boyfriend jeans and blazers to lace-up brogues. Although they originated in our husbands’ wardrobes, solid flat shoes (and if you want the full effect, they must be black) can make an animal print tunic less Côte d’Azur and a tailored tuxedo easy going in a non-James Bond kind of way.

The trick is to use these shoes as an exclamation mark to winter’s minimal themes. If you need a celebrity reference, Alexa Chung mastered the flat shoe before Calvin Klein even put them on the catwalk. Granted, though, her legs are slimmer than strands of linguine — so if you have a bit more weight on yours, think about skipping the loafer-with-bare-legs combination and keep them for when tights return. or wear brogues with trousers – just keep the trousers short; you should not underestimate power of a bare ankle to distinguish this look from Savile Row.

The emergence of flats ties into the growing importance of “pre-collections”. Designed to offer a commercial expression of a designer’s concept, these ranges now make up somewhere in the region of 80 per cent of some department store buys. Interestingly, almost all the pre-collections for next season were photographed on house models wearing flat shoes. Perhaps designers are listening more closely to what women want to spend their money on, and what they actually want to wear in their everyday lives rather than ogle in glossy magazines. “Designers with an obsession for towering torture chambers, often poorly designed for the wellbeing of the foot, must get a reality check. I, for one, am over the mania for the high, high heel. Too many career women look like a herd of fashion beasts aping one another in impractical shoes,” said Andre Leon Talley, editor-at-large of American Vogue said recently said typical vigour.

Sales of shoes are the reason that many of the designer names along Sloane Street remain afloat, so their changing shape must be regarded as important fashion news. And not just because our legs are going to look a little stumpier come autumn.

 From The Times –  August 2009