Why We All Miss Mad Men

Mad Men

By now, all the critics’ analyses of the final episode of the seven-season-long TV drama Mad Men have died down. But the yearning still remains – there will be nothing anymore on TV on Sunday nights to look forward to; no more disputes about the interpretations of what each episode meant; and no more nostalgia of the ’60s and ’70s fashion!

I’ve always loved this TV drama because it was not just a nostalgic piece for us boomers, but, rather, a cross-cultural and cross-generational, pop-culture masterpiece that has created controversy and generated different interpretations of the story development and the viewers’ affinity with its characters.

I watched the final episode twice in order to get into the full essence of what creator Matthew Weiner wanted to say. And here’s a spoiler alert: do NOT read on if you haven’t yet seen the final episode and are planning to watch it on Netflix! I think as loyal followers of this TV drama for the past seven years, we all thought Don Draper was going to die towards the end. From the illustrations at the beginning of each episode about him falling down a skyscraper building of Manhattan to Jon Hamm’s (the actor playing Draper) hint about his character’s destiny on TV talk shows, Draper’s death seemed like an inevitable end to a dark drama like Mad Men.

Yet, the brilliance of Matthew Weiner lies in the fact that he wanted the entire TV drama to end like the satire of the whole show – it’s a satire of the advertising industry in the ’60s and ’70s and, therefore, it should end with a brilliant commercial of its times. The “I’d like to teach the world to sing” Coke commercial has always brought goose bumps to the marketing world, and with Don giving us a smile and smirk in his final scene on top of a cliff while participating in his group meditation, we’ve come to realize that Don has come to recognize and identify himself as an advertising man after all his torment and soul-searching. Coca-Cola was so undeniably McCann-Erickson that it’s natural that only Don Draper could be the creative genius that invented this wonderful commercial after McCann has acquired Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Although Peggy has always been the feminist on the show, it’s most appropriate to have Joan, the former secretary constantly harassed by the male characters in the drama, be the ultimate woman who achieved independence and quit McCann and her rich beau to set up her own company while raising a young son at home. What I don’t understand is why Weiner had the most despicable ad executive on the show, Peter, be on the road to fame and wealth by giving him the most enviable job from a private jet company. Perhaps, one of the creator’s key messages was that all successful advertising executives could be somebody like Peter – slimy, social-climbing, womanizing, lazy and manipulative while sucking up to their bosses and clients!

We will all miss Mad Men, but I’m sure the TV drama will, in no time, become one of the classics to be studied at universities and drama classes because not only did it trace the historical milestones of that era (the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King); it also tracked the roots and rise of feminism; it portrayed racial and sexual discriminations within the office environments of the advertising world; and it depicted lies and deception with great depth and irony!

I don’t know about you, but this is the only TV drama that’s worth watching over and over again. I, for one, will start watching all seven seasons again over time on Netflix and savour what I’ve missed when viewing it the first time!

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Let’s Give Uber Conditional Support

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Photo Credit: The New York Times

I’m a huge fan of Uber, the car transport share-ride company based in San Francisco. As a consumer, Uber is a unique brand that demonstrates democracy to its fullest by offering consumers many alternatives to the city’s taxi services. Within the Uber umbrella brand, there are five options to pick from – UberX, UberXL, Uber Black, Uber Select and Uber Taxi. For people who are regular taxi users, but do not want to pay the full price, UberX is quick and convenient and offers them at least 20 percent in cost savings when compared to a traditional cab ride. For business users, Uber Black offers bigger and more luxurious cars, more professional drivers in uniforms, and can he ordered to impress clients and VIP guests.

The biggest benefit is that by registering your credit card with Uber the company, you can then book a ride through the Uber app on your smartphone without any exchange of cash or paper between the driver and the passenger. Once you’ve booked a car, you will always know whether a car is really coming to pick you up or not; where the car’s exact location is; and the estimated time of arrival. The driver’s name, photo and car licence plate will show up on your app upon your Uber request, and if, for any reasons you don’t like the driver or the car, the request can be cancelled immediately and you can request another car. You can also request an estimate on your ride before you start the request. Once you arrive at your destination, you would just say goodbye and thank you to the driver without paying cash and you will receive a receipt on your smartphone a few minutes later.

Uber also gives both the passenger and the driver the opportunity to rate each other on a five-star system. So if you see a driver with a low rating popping up on your app, you can choose to cancel the request for the ride. Similarly, if the driver does not want to accept your request for the ride, he or she can also do that based on the rating of the passenger by other Uber drivers. But, frankly speaking, passengers still have the upper hand because most Uber drivers want the business before they join the pool.

Uber is also truly a global brand as it is now in 270 cities around the world. In cities like L.A., where hailing a cab on the road can be challenging, Uber is particularly useful. In Manhattan, apparently, there are now more Uber cars than the omnipresent yellow cabs.

Gone are the frustrations of trying to hail a cab in adverse weather conditions; and the anxiety of waiting for a Beck or Co-Op cab after your call to the taxi company and wondering very often whether the drivers are going to show up or not. Also, gone are the days when you have to worry about whether you have enough cash for your cab ride and forgetting about asking for a receipt after your ride in order to submit as a business expense.

Uber X cars are usually cleaner (particularly in winter) and the drivers, although relying all too often on their GPS for directions, are usually friendly, professional, speak proper English and know what they are doing and where they are going. For the occasional drivers who are unprofessional, there’s always a channel to complain with very prompt feedback and apologies from the Uber company.

As a consumer brand, Uber is also extremely innovative in coming up with more choices for consumers. Uber Eats was just launched yesterday to pair up restaurants with diners for Uber drivers to deliver lunches ordered by consumers on their apps. A pilot program was tested by Uber and Loblaws about a month ago to deliver groceries on demand. Uber has also been encouraging women to sign up as their drivers. As a marketing specialist, I’m loving Uber because it is innovative, non-traditional, creative, international and still providing affordable choices for consumers.

Of course, Uber is not perfect. You see negative publicity of the company almost every day. Yesterday, Quebec tax authorities raided the Montreal headquarters of the company saying that Uber may have violated provincial tax laws by not collecting taxes from the drivers of its most popular service, UberX, and does not require its drivers to have a tax number for GST and provincial sales tax collection. The raids further underscore the difficulty Uber is experiencing securing legitimacy in certain cities where it has come in and disrupted traditional taxi services. In Toronto, the taxi drivers are also up in arms because they claim that the technology company is killing the taxi industry. Uber is also facing charges in Toronto’s courts alleging that the company is not requiring legitimate commercial licences and insurance for its drivers and is, therefore, putting passengers at risk. For these and other reasons, many European countries, such as Germany and Spain, have banned Uber from their cities.

Uber is not for everybody. If you tend to ride the subway more often than taxis, then this company’s service is not for you. But for all other consumers who would prefer to take a taxi than driving in the gridlock, and for others who want more choices than the traditional cabs, Uber is a breath of fresh air. But I would continue to support Uber only on condition that they play by the rules and abide by provincial and city regulations on taxation, commercial licences and insurance, and protecting both their drivers and passengers at all cost. To use the excuse that it is currently a technology company, not a taxi company, is irresponsible and not going to solve Uber’s problems in the long run!

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Can Our Votes Be Bought?


Everybody has been talking about how the recent federal budget introduced by The Conservative Party was designed to appeal to seniors and boomers who will soon turn seniors. So when we boomers see a new tax policy that increases the maximum contributions to the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) from $5,500 a year to $10,000; and the mandatory minimum withdrawal of the Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) is reduced to 5.28 percent from 7.38 percent for people aged 71 onward; should we feel so delighted that we will naturally vote for the Conservatives come October?

According to Margaret Wente of The Globe and Mail, Canadian senior citizens are among the most affluent people in the world. Fewer than five percent of seniors live below the poverty line – one-third the rate of children who do. Since 1999, the median net worth of seniors has jumped 70 percent. We boomers are better off financially than our parents, and we’re far better off than the struggling millennials who will never enjoy the job security, the pension plans and the high house prices and stock returns with which we’ve been enjoying.

The strategy for politicians has always been how to get people to vote for them. With the upcoming October 19 federal elections coming up, Joe Oliver’s budget is blatantly appealing to the older voters. The Globe and Mail pointed out that three-quarters of all 65-year-olds voted in the last federal election, but less than half of 30-year-olds did. That’s why this recent federal budget has been dubbed a seniors’ budget because politicians can’t afford to antagonize seniors and retiring boomers.

But with very few policies directed at young, unmarried, new-to-the-work-force voters, young people will continue to be apathetic and participate less in the democratic process. The less the political parties reach out to them, the more disengaged they become. I see young Canadians behaving like what I did in Hong Kong when I was growing up as a young adult – by not voting at all and not participating in democracy! So as Canada’s population ages, there is no succession plan for the future of democracy and that is scary!

There are also very few budgetary measures directed at improving our ailing universal healthcare system. There continue to be no reforms for universal pharmacare for the country in spite of ongoing advocacy by medical associations and medical professionals. With the recent budget announcement by Ontario’s Liberal government, nurses are further put in an impossible working environment where the nurse-patient ratio in our province has now become the lowest in the country.

I recall immigrating to this country some 25 years ago because I wanted to live in a progressive country like Canada where freedom of speech, universal suffrage and democracy, and universal healthcare were its most attractive attributes. I guess all these qualities still remain, but they have been gradually eroding throughout the years. So before I vote in October, I will have to be less selfish, and not only look at how the current government is trying to win by wooing me as a voter. Instead, I should be considering which political party will introduce the most beneficial changes to our society and truly make Canada an even better place to live!

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That ’70s Fashion Is Back In Vogue


Photo Credit: www.frostmagazine.com

Photo Credit: www.frostmagazine.com

As a boomer who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, I am delighted to hear that there’s a retro revival going on for the spring/summer fashion this season – that ’70s fashion of flared sleeves and bell-bottomed pants, knit ponchos, Bohemian dresses and tops, fringe on jackets and bags, and knee-high sandal boots will soon be everywhere! Not that I’ve kept any of my old clothes from 40 years ago for repurposing now, but the seventies fashion has always been my favourite!

According to Vogue magazine, designer Jonathan Anderson said that we’re living in a generation and a moment in fashion where you see a lot of nostalgia. “That’s because, fundamentally, we are living in a moment where no one knows where they are going and everyone is trying to work out whether they fit.” Now, this sounds a bit pessimistic, but it’s true that boomers are all about nostalgia. Pop culture and Hollywood are also enhancing that ’70s effect – Mad Men, American Hustle and Inherent Vice are all visually a feast for the eyes with the ’60s and ’70s fashion, makeup and music.

I personally think that we should not read too much into the trend. Fashion designers and creative directors just need to draw from the past and look into the future. There’s always the theory that fashion looks back in a 30- or 40-year cycle. I have not been excited about fashion trends for the last five years, but I am excited about this retro ’70s look because it brings back fond memories of my youth.

In case you’re still wondering what to wear (should you want to be fashionable), here are the top looks this season:

– Tops or dresses with bell sleeves paired with a suede long-strap bag

– Crochet tops and dresses with a fringed hem

– Soft suede high boots with long fringes

– Bell-bottomed pants and jeans

– “Flatforms” and chunky heels

– Short is out and long is in: maxi dresses with a slit at the front and preferably filled with patchwork

For all of you women boomers who want to have some fun this spring/summer season, just pick the style you like that will give you some fond memories, look fashionable but not ridiculous!

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True Universal Healthcare Should Cover Drugs


Continuing on the subject of healthcare, Canada does not truly have universal healthcare because it’s the only country among a list of 11 developed countries with universal healthcare that does not offer universal prescription drug benefits! With Obamacare, even the U.S. might one day surpass our country in drug coverage.

According to CBC News, about one in 10 Canadians say they can’t afford to take their medications as prescribed. In a recent issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers say the extra total cost to government of providing universal pharmacare could range as high as $5.4 billion, but would likely be about $1 billion, depending on exactly how much can be saved through bulk purchases of medications and other measures. At the same time, it would save the private sector the $8.2 billion annually it spends on prescription drugs, mainly through employee health plans. Saving costs aside, there were many cancer patients who sadly chose to die rather than to incur the exorbitantly high costs of cancer drugs or to impose this financial burden on family members.

According to a recent Global News 16×9 news report, using Manitoba/Ontario as the dividing line in the country, the further West you live, the better it is for provincial drug coverage. For instance, with the recent breakthrough cancer drug which costs $3,000 per month, B.C. covers this drug cost but Ontario does not. Then there’s the issue of patient compliance. Studies in the U.S. suggest that providing prescription medications for free to patients increases the chance they’ll actually take the medications they need and, in the long run, improves their health and reduces their demand on the healthcare system. CBC also reported that Health Minister Rona Ambrose would not say whether she would favour a pharmacare program. She does think Canada can get a better deal by working together on a bulk purchasing system, instead of every province and territory buying drugs for their plans separately. Canada currently has one of the most expensive systems for purchasing prescription drugs in the world.

According to The Council of Canadians, a universal pharmacare program would demand federal oversight and accountability. One of the many positive outcomes of federal involvement could be an ending to the severe drug shortages Canada has been experiencing. If we negotiate with Big Pharma as a national bulk purchaser, we may be able to afford to purchase more of the drugs in short supply.

But I agree with the Council on one important point: Canada created a national and universal healthcare program so that all Canadians could have access to the care they need regardless of their ability to pay. But without pharmacare, Canadians are not able to afford their prescription drugs. This means that patients might skip pills, cut pills, or not even fill in their prescription due to cost.

I’m glad to hear that the Council and its allies, including the Canadian Medical Association, are lobbying all levels of government to expand medicare services to include home and community care, long term care, mental and dental care, and pharmacare. The Council also said  that very successful pharmacare models are operating in other countries and Canada has fallen behind. Let’s hope, for the sake of aging boomers and seniors, that this concerted lobbying effort will result in progress soon!

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