Goodbye YouTube my old friend…

I am a die-hard YouTube fan. I have loved it since its inception, and now have numerous playlists with all kinds of weird and wonderful movies, old TV shows and music collections that I would never have found otherwise. Where else could I possibly find old episodes of The Prisoner? Or entire seasons of terrific British dramas like Trial & Retribution or Blood in the Wire? Or one of my genuine treasures: the 1970 BBC mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII? I’ve even managed to dig up great audiobooks, like The Exorcist, read by the author himself. (What a voice on William Peter Blatty!)


Me as a YouTube ‘social butterfly’  at Halloween

Granted these selections might not be your cup of tea, but no doubt you have your own great finds — maybe old TV commercials you remember as a kid, or campy music videos you once thought were cool (and now make you groan), or makeup tutorials, or home-reno videos… The variety on YouTube is almost infinite — one of the things I love about it.

Lately, however, my love affair with YouTube has waned.

It’s the ads. Ads, ads, and more ads. Several ads in a 40-minute episode of Escape to the Country. Ads interrupting every few minutes in a Christmas jazz playlist. Ads that are longer. Ads that can no longer be skipped.Reddit_1And hey: I get it. YouTube makes its money through advertising — money that helps fund original content creators (my daughter being one of them). Lately, advertisers have started to put pressure on YouTube to provide greater transparency and proof of viewership — i.e. If my ads are being skipped, why should I place them?Reddit_2At the same time, I find it oddly coincidental that just as YouTube is launching its ad-free subscription-based YouTube Red (at roughly $10 a month), it litters its original free service with more ads than you can count.Reddit_3And there’s talk that content creators for the original service are essentially being bullied into joining the new Red service — i.e. no Red, no revenue.

In addition to which are Google’s moves to stop all adblocking.

All of which sours my once rosy view of Google. As a dedicated user (and quasi-evangelist) of products like Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, Play Books, and — probably my fave — Google Maps (hey, I even switched this year from an iPhone to Android), I’ve always thought Google was all that and a bag of chips. From the company’s first appearance on the web back in 1998, when they actually gave you real search results rather than just tried to sell you something (like all the other search engines did), I thought Google was intelligent, intuitive, and for the people.

Alas, with the recent changes at YouTube, I’m not so sure that’s still the case.

One thing I am sure about is that I can no longer watch my beloved playlists when they’re peppered with ads. It’s just too damned intrusive, and too much trouble to try to watch or listen to the content itself.

So for now, while I will still turn to YouTube to ‘look something up’, for the most part, it’ll be back to the ‘prime time’ of Netflix.


Days of Woolco & rayon

Moulin_Rouge_pantyhoseThe other day I was cleaning out my closet. (I don’t normally clean out closets — I’m a bit of a pack rat — but we’re thinking about moving next year, and I’m trying to work my way up to full-throttle purging.)

Burrowing down into sweaters I don’t wear and purses I don’t need, I came across an old package of pantyhose. Like, really old. Like, probably 1980s old. I could tell right off that my mum had bought them. Vintage queen size Moulin Rouge. God, the name, the design, the model *groan*. Then I saw the price sticker: Woolco. 6 for $5.00.Moulin_Rouge_close-up

OMG. When was the last time I saw a Woolco sticker? When was the last time I saw a Woolco? I thought of my mum, picking up her discount pantyhose because she was way too practical to spend a lot of money on pantyhose. I was reminded (again) that it’s 20 years (20 years!) since she died. (Breast cancer. Grrrrr.)

leather folderI immediately went to a box in another part of my closet and pulled out an old leather folder stuffed with bits of paper. Photos. Newspaper clippings. Report cards. Birth notices (including mine). Death notices.

I’ve been through it a few times, but each time I enjoy it in a bittersweet way. It’s like I’m dipping into my mom’s memories, and kind of reacquainting myself with her. Not to mention the fact that many of these mementos are part of my life too.

pics & lettersThe picture of my brother Richard circa grade 7 (dig the gingham, Rich!). The class photo from St. Mike’s Choir School, where my brother Anthony went. The vaccination for our first cat, Marmalade, who we brought home as a kitten in 1972 after our neighbour’s cat had a litter. Old birthday and anniversary cards from my dad. And even a letter from me, written way back in 1988 when I took my first trip overseas (back in the days before email and texting).

Brownie card (1)All of it takes me back to what sometimes feels like a different life on another planet. A life when I was one of three kids in a busy house with a dad who was a temperamental writer and my mom who was a… less temperamental writer.

My mom was ying to my dad’s yang. She balanced him. Along with being practical, she was one of the kindest, most empathetic people you could ever meet. It might sound cliche to say ‘everyone loved her’, but everyone did. She was approachable, easygoing — an ice-breaker among nervous or arrogant people. Queen of England. School custodian. She didn’t care. She’d talk to anyone. Many a time we sat in an idling car (it was the 70s), waiting for her to get through a store checkout; when she finally emerged, she always had a story to tell about the person who’d been standing next to her. “…and they lived two streets over from Somerset in Ottawa! CAN you believe it?”Dads cards (1)

I think it was partly growing up in the no-nonsense Ottawa Valley during the depression that helped instill that down-to-earth, no-B.S. demeanor. And her dogged determination. She could do just about anything. Bake like a fiend. Make clothes. Sand floors. Strip and re-finish old furniture (including the lovely dresser I still use now). If she didn’t know how to do something, she learned how. “I saw one in Canadian Tire and figured it couldn’t be that hard…”

I have especially fond memories of the Fort Knox-like garbage box she constructed to keep the raccoons at bay. She had to rebuild and reinforce parts of it because the crafty little devils managed to chew corners and pull off locks and climb inside, again and again. One morning she found one big fellow sitting on top of the box, paws resting on his very full tummy. He just looked at her. She was aghast, but at the same time admired the chutzpah.

And of course, along with baking and building and sewing and sanding, she was a great writer and accomplished magazine editor.

MumWhen she was diagnosed with breast cancer late in the summer of ’93, I remember her turning to us at Mount Sinai and saying, “I’m going to beat this.” I could tell she was reassuring us because she didn’t want us to worry.

Now, when I sift through these notes and letters and forms and photos, I think of a woman who on one hand was one of the most human people I knew, but who at the same time remains, to my mind, invincible.

And boy, could she find a bargain! Love you mum. xo