Saturday, January 30, 2016

Return to Blue Bayou

One of the great voices in pop music - in ANY kind of music - was silenced a couple of years ago by Parkinson's Disease.

But there's more to this posting than that sad discovery. Something used to happen - on and off - for years and years. I'd be standing in a store and a song would come on the p. a. system, or whatever you call it, that music in the background which is usually either sappy or irritating.

The passion of it, the yearning, would root me to the spot. This wasn't in an era where you could easily identify a piece of music, or identify it at all. I would only get a snatch of it, with all the noise and jostling of a busy store. Then years would go by, and I'd try to forget it.

Then it would happen again.

I assumed I'd never find out who sang this, and then, through the unlikely and almost magical arabesques of YouTube, I somehow found my way back to it last night.

I saw the title, saw her picture, and for some reason, a light came on.

That's the song. I knew it before I even played it.

It's a Roy Orbison song, which explains the yearning, and the almost tango-like rhythm of it with its Latin flavour.

It fits Ronstad's incredible voice  like a hand in glove.

I remember her first hit with the Stone Poneys, A Different Drum, famously written by Mike Nesmith, either pre- or during- or post-Monkees. That voice! The clarity, the cut-crystal vibration, the passion. After that initial hit, she quickly developed a career in her own right.

You see her now in interview, and she isn't able to sing any more. Tragically, her voice deserted her when she was on stage, unable to produce anything but "barking". She's still Linda Ronstadt, and she doesn't look like she has done anything to her face, leaving her with the most naturally-beautiful skin I've ever seen on a woman of nearly seventy. No, her neck isn't taut and firm, and she has gained some weight, but why is that considered such a tragedy? She always had a roundish face even when she was young.

I also saw an interview with Darryl Hannah, who unfortunately looks grotesque now. The entire upper half of her face is dead from Botox: smooth, flat and immobile. Her eyebrows never move. Watch a normal person in conversation, and eyebrow movement, however subtle, is very much a part of the face's animation, particularly the expressiveness of the eyes.

With eyebrows and forehead completely frozen, it creates a creepy Day of the Dead feeling as the lower half of the face still tries to move. But it too will have been hauled up and tampered with. As a person ages, the muscles begin to sag and pull at the tightened skin in odd ways. Skin is supposed to age along with the underlying structure, and if it can't, you get a disturbingly squirmy look. This is even worse than that House of Wax immobility which is considered so desirable. When it gets really bad, as the person reaches their 60s and 70s, the mouth sinks into the face and becomes a horizontal slit, almost Muppetlike, with the smile going sideways. Eyes sink into the exaggerated cheek implants as if they're peeping out of deep caves. And let's not get into the fat, blubbery lips that are supposed to look so sexy: the instant you see them, you think, collagen. It's hard to believe that anyone could find this macabre look appealing, but stars pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have it done to them. No doubt plastic surgeons convince them they look great, and a glance in the mirror might seem to prove it. No one checks how they look when they're talking.

But Linda, fortunately, does not seem to have done that to herself. Fate has done enough to her, I suppose, in taking away her voice.

I have had a modest recovery just lately - I won't say what those things are, because to you they might sound laughably small. But added together, they make me feel that perhaps I have not been as devastatingly robbed as I thought. Maybe not the entire the rug has been pulled out from under me.

So I got this song back, this haunting song so full of thwarted desire. It took years and years, and it happened by a combination of accident, and strange magnetism.

But it's back, and now I know who it is.

Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Friday, January 29, 2016

All the new Barbies.

I have nothing to say about this.

You only have four real friends. Get used to it

You Only Have Four Real Friends on Facebook, Study Says

Everyone else on the social media site is just someone you're connected to

Facebook friends are almost never real friends, a new study suggests.
By Rachel DickerJan. 29, 2016, at 12:38 p.m.+ More

Facebook makes users feel both connected and isolated.

There are plenty of well-wishers when your birthday comes around, but how many of those people would you call to hang out with you?

According to a study from Oxford University, "There is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome."

In other words: Your brain can't handle too many friends. In fact, the average person has about four real ones, regardless of the number listed on their profile.

To reach this conclusion, R.I.M. Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford and author of the study, examined a sample of 3,375 people in the United Kingdom ages 18 to 65. Some used social media regularly, while others did not.

The participants who used social media were asked how many Facebook friends they could depend on during an emotional or social crisis, and the average response – which barely varied between age groups – was four. The average study participant, however, had 150 Facebook friends.

That's a 2.7 percent rate of true friendship.

Further, "The data show that the size and range of online egocentric social networks, indexed as the number of Facebook friends, is similar to that of offline face-to-face networks," Dunbar writes in the study.

Translation: People who use Facebook have, on average, the same number of friends as those who don't.

So maybe we ought to make more calls and pay more visits to the people we love – there aren't that many, after all.

Rachel Dicker is an Associate Editor, Social Media at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at

BLOGGER'S BLAH. Yes, I have long suspected this. In the past little while, two different Facebook "friends" were fussing and fuming at all these pesky friend requests they kept getting. Didn't they know they were nearing the 5000-friend limit and needed to keep those precious few spaces open so THEY could hand-pick the remaining people ("supporters")?

Several times I've seen the advice to go through those five thousand friends carefully and weed out dead people or those with inactive accounts (i. e., few or no friends, which amounts to the same thing). A "friend" is of no use unless they, in turn, have a lot of friends. I even saw a rant - a real one, not a parody, though it was almost unbelievable - saying that all these dead people were making it difficult for her to keep an accurate count on her total. The nerve of those people! On their deathbed, rattling out their last, they should be legally required to gasp to their nearest and dearest: "Please. . . close. . . Face. . . book. . . acc. . .acc. . . cckkkkkkk. . ." (dies).

So do I have four "real" friends on Facebook? There are people I used to be close friends with - even very close friends, but drift does happen, even if you still care about them. But who would be there in a crisis? The one person who immediately comes to mind is in a health crisis of his own, a major one, to the point that I often wonder if he has died and I just haven't found out about it yet. But he'd be there for me emotionally, I know this beyond question, just as I try to be there for him, simply because we love each other. He has proven his loyalty for the past 25 years, but the rest? I'm not so sure. I think if I were in a really bad way, most of them would just disappear into the woodwork. It has happened before.

So I have a ways to go until I hit that magical 5000 mark. Until then, just keep those friend requests coming.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

My Vancouver dream home: only 2.4 million!

This Vancouver dream home could be yours for only $2.4 million

January 29, 2016. 8:58 am • Section: Real Estate

Posted by:
Peter Darbyshire

Vancouverites greeted the new year with the news that most homes in the city now cost $1 million or more — plus, your firstborn child. Just kidding — no one can afford to raise children in Vancouver anymore. In fact, $1 million may be on the low end — one-third of Vancouver homes are valued at more than $2 million.

How do you like being a world-class city now, Vancouver?

Hey, at least the transit runs on time — ah, never mind.

But there are still bargains to be found in the region’s crazy housing market. Take, for example, the charming fixer-upper that just went on sale in Vancouver’s prestigious Point Grey neighbourhood for a measly $2.4 million.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 4453 West 14th Avenue was built in 1930 and currently has a self-contained basement suite. It has a mountain view and is within walking distance to Lord Byng Secondary, Jules Quesnel, Queen Elizabeth Elementary, West Point Grey Academy and much more. Although, if you can afford $2.4 million for a home, you’re probably taking a helicopter wherever you need to go anyway.

Photos of the home show it’s in need of some work. Paint appears to be peeling in places throughout the house, and the yard appears to be transforming into some sort of Avatar-like jungle. It does have an eco-friendly green roof, though! We’re sure the new owners will lovingly and carefully restore this house to its former glory.

There will be an open house Tuesday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m.-noon if you want to check it out in person. In the meantime, you’ll have to settle for touring the photo gallery to imagine yourself living here.

This post from today's Province newspaper gave me pause. It gave me pause because we could probably now sell our back yard tool shed for at least a cool million. Who says our ship will never come in?

Every day I am grateful for our modest, if unprepossessing home in Port Coquitlam - and even out here, condos are springing up out of the ground and spreading like a malignancy. They're ugly, identical, squashed-together, have no character, and are also tall and skinny, each room on its own floor, to save land. And there are no yards of any kind. Yards are becoming a luxury and will soon disappear. Some newer neighborhoods have houses that are smack-dab up against the road, without even a curb to divide them. I see no green space, no parks, no place at all to take your kids to run around and look at a tree: they simply have to do without that luxury, so they sit and play games on their ipods.

This is no way to live. We're settled here, our family is here (and thank God our kids also have comfortable homes, with my daughter even living in out-of-the-question North Vancouver - having settled there fifteen years ago when things were different). But the other horrendous problem is unemployment. It's the one-two punch: you cannot afford to be laid off if you're trying to pay off one of these babies. And it's happening all the time.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Do I write too much?

Never write about writing. Never blog about blogging. You'll break your heart, or start to wonder who is reading this.

This whole thing is a vanity project, though it began as a way to try to promote my book (ha-ha). I don't think I would have thought of blogging on my own, and barely even knew what a blog was when I began in 2011 or so (or maybe it was 2010? An embryonic blog in OpenSalon was a total bust, ending in utter humiliation). 

The worst thing a writer can do, ever, is worry about how something will be received, or not received. Don't just write what you know - write whatever the fxxx you want!  But in the wonderful wasteland of the internet, likes and comments and hits and "going viral" count for everything, and creativity, originality and joy soon wither away.

So you just keep putting the stuff out there, because you love doing it. It's a form of play. You're never going to see money, and you're never going to see fame, though it often seems that all your Facebook friends are cleaning up at the box office and you're not.

I had four longtime followers bail on me in a 24-hour period the other day. That has never happened to me before. Generally, the direction is upward - in fact, it was for years, though the total was never very high. That wasn't the point. The point was  that there was movement.

I guess there still is,  just in the wrong direction. I don't know why, but I have hazarded a guess: I wrote a piece - a very heavy piece, and against all my usual principles I put it back in draft ( I refuse to delete it, and plan to put it back up again when world events catch up with me). It was pretty gloomy, and in fact doomy, but I do see signs that we, as a culture, are indeed slouching towards Bethlehem. I said so. And four people left, all at once, probably for good. Was that the reason?

I'm pretty old, and I don't keep up and don't particularly want to, but I've found a level of creative play on this thing, and on the internet in general, that I genuinely enjoy. Recent alarming health concerns have honestly made me wonder if I'll still be around in a year. It occurs to me almost daily. My body seems to be melting away as I sit here, and I can feel all my bones. Which is why the need to do what I want, without thought of consequence, is even more pressing.

So I make my George Gershwin Blingees, in the full knowledge that 90% of people will find them damn stupid, if they find them at all. But to me, it's a magic trick, finger-painting with light, and fun.

And you've got to have as much of it as you can. While there's still time.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A boy, Yasha: George Gershwin in translation

This is a literal translation from a lovely site called Russian Culture. It's one of the best "Life of Gershwin" pieces I've seen because the prose is so delightfully wonky. It's as if you can hear someone with a heavy Russian accent telling the story with great enthusiasm. I omitted the original photos because we've seen them all before, and tried to substitute something slightly more imaginitive.

Russian Jewish heritage George Gershwin. September 26, 1898 in New York City in a family of immigrants from Russia, was born a boy Yasha. The whole world knows him as George Gershwin – self-taught musician of the 20th century and the King of Broadway and Hollywood musicals. 

Gershwin came from Russian Jewish heritage. His grandfather, Jakov Gershowitz, had served for 25 years as a mechanic for the Imperial Russian Army. He retired near Saint Petersburg. His teenage son, Moishe Gershowitz, worked as a leather cutter for women’s shoes; Moishe fell in love with Rosa Bruskin, the teenage daughter of a Saint Petersburg furrier. Bruskin moved with her family to New York, she Americanized her first name to Rose. Moishe, faced with compulsory military service in Russia, followed Rose as soon as he was able.

George Gershwin grew up a tomboy street, to say, a bully, and also studied badly! “Lord, what comes out of this boy!” – pathetically exclaimed dad Gershovich. Everything suddenly changed when at a concert in the school Yasha first heard the famous violinist Max Rosenzweig. One and a half hour after a concert George was waiting for the soloist, ignoring the pouring rain, having found that he had gone the other way, rushed to his home.

They became friends. “Max introduced me to the world of music” – recalled the composer. At the home of Rosenzweig George taught himself to play the piano by ear picking popular tunes. The parents repeatedly tried to hire teachers to him, but George couldn’t get along with them. He remained self-taught.

At 15, George Gershwin found work as a pianist-accompanist at the publishing house “Remick & Co”. Soon he entered theatrical circles, and in 1918 presented his first musical on Broadway. It all ended in failure, however, the young man was not discouraged. He literally filled up Broadway producers with his works.

Finally, in 1924, George Gershwin was lucky. Musical on his music, «Lady, Be Good» has become a real Broadway hit. For this show Gershwin wrote the song, which many consider to be one of the best love ballads of the 20th century – «The Man I love».

By the way, this song, like almost all the songs and musicals of George Gershwin, were written on verses of his older brother Ira – a professional poet and writer. “Rhapsody in Blue” and the musical «Lady, Be Good» brought good money. This allowed the family to move out of the provincial district to their own five-story building at 103 Street and George – a journey through Europe.

In Paris, he met the famous French composer Maurice Ravel, and even tried to persuade the master to give him a few lessons in composition:

– But why study? – Asked Ravel. – You’re already famous. How much do you earn?

– One hundred thousand dollars a year – sheepishly replied Gershwin.

– Awesome! – Exclaimed Ravel – then I’d have to take lessons from you!

From a trip to Europe Gershwin returned with a sketch of the symphonic poem “An American in Paris.” It was sung in the Philharmonic Society of New York and happily forgotten. Many of the brothers Gershwin tunes were later used for writing songs. Well, in 1951, when George was no longer in the world, director Vincente Minnelli made a wonderful musical “An American in Paris” by Gershwin brothers songs. “An American in Paris” is still consistently ranks in the top five films of musicals of all time. By the way, the musical features one more hit of Gershwin «The Foggy Day»

They say that time puts everything in its place! Today George Gershwin is recognized genius of the 20th century. However, praise and serious musicological articles and books obscure the image of Gershwin – cheerful, amorous, thoughtless man, besides a brilliant storyteller and inveterate wit. And, of course, Gershwin never married, he was Don Juan. His affair with actress Paulette Goddard (whom he begged to leave her husband Charlie Chaplin), a French film star Simone, beautiful dancer Margaret Manners, Marguerite Eriksen, Kay Swift, Mollie Charleston – were the main topics of gossip at the time. However, numerous romances, according to Gershwin, were the main source of his inspiration. Generally, in the twenties and thirties Gershwin created musicals one after the other.

Many people are still arguing about the genre of the work. What is this, an opera or a musical? Or maybe something else? It is, of course, the “Porgy and Bess” – A masterpiece by George Gershwin. However, the composer said: “The main thing that the public liked, and genre … the genre is not important.”

Gershwin’s life ended abruptly and tragically. What began with a simple headache, suddenly turned into a chronic and serious disease. When Gershwin began to forget the whole parts of his works, his friends and relatives advised to go to the doctor, who diagnosed a “brain tumor” and advised surgery. The surgeon, specializing in transactions of this kind, was on his way to California to save the life of his illustrious patient, but he was too late -11 July 1937, George Gershwin died

His music still sounds in Broadway shows, Hollywood George Gershwin. His songs are still big hits. Additional facts from Russian Wikipedia: One of the hobbies of Gershwin was drawing. Gershwin was in love with Alexandra Blednykh – she was his best pupil.

Gershwin never married, but he had an only son. Alan Gershwin (b. 1926) was the son of George Gershwin and showgirl Margaret (“Mollie”) Manners. Paul Mueller, Gershwin’s valet, recounts trips made by Gershwin to visit Margaret and the boy, and says that he had no doubt the boy was his son. He also recalls trips made late at night, “undercover,” to the boys home in California. Alan Gershwin recalls receiving regular visits from his famous father growing up, and he received envelopes of cash with each visit to help support him. Peyser provides convincing evidence and reports that Alan Gershwin was actually Gershwin’s son – although the Gershwin family still denies it. Peyser suggests that Ira and Leonore denied Alan’s claims in order to keep him out of George’s inheritance, but once paid him $300 K to keep quiet and leave them alone. (from Joan Peyser’s account of George Gershwin in “The Memory of All That”)

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Challenger: it was 30 years ago today

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger explosion that changed everything for NASA, perhaps forever. I won't tell you what I was doing at the time because it is absolutely mundane, nor am I interested in the "I was feeding the dog", "taking out the garbage" comments that people assume are so fascinating to others.

I recently saw a documentary about this on the Smithsonian channel. John Glenn spoke after the tragedy, stating that it was nothing short of a miracle that nothing like that had happened up to then. It's true. Apollo 13 was one of those episodes of just squeaking by.

It's funny how people use that as a reason why nothing will ever go wrong: "It hasn't happened up to now, so. . . " I most often hear this comment in connection with smoking and other suicidal habits. What it really means is "the odds are more against me all the time". When I say that, I'm always accused of being "negative". I just can't get on the Facebook cheerleading team, I guess.

I won't get into the hubris that brought this about, nor will I say that the whole team should have stood in bed. I'm saying that the numb shock everyone felt (which, by the way, I felt too) had an element not of "this shouldn't have happened", but "this COULDN'T have happened" - mainly because it had never happened before.

The Smithsonian program highlighted one particular engineer who kept warning everyone that Challenger should not be launched in such cold conditions. We all remember those infamous cracked o-rings that brought the whole space program crashing down. Literally. But it turns out there were a number of engineers who sounded that warning. Smithsonian Channel is not above dramatizations, and the "re-enactment" showed this one man pounding on the desk and bellowing at an oblivous team of men staring straight ahead. Afterwards came his account of having a nervous breakdown that sidelined him for four and a half years.

Something like this may have actually happened, but it doesn't tell the whole story. But "one man against the system" (with nobody listening) plays a lot better, makes better TV. The real story is probably much more complicated than the public will ever know.

POST-BLOG: I did a bit of digging on the Challenger whistle-blower in the documentary: one of several, though only his story was highlighted. He died in 2012 after becoming a pariah for "ratting" on NASA, an unthinkable crime (especially since he was right about everything). A more haunted-looking individual I have never seen. Nor an angrier one.

Roger Boisjoly, an aerospace engineer who warned that tragedy could result if NASA's space shuttle Challenger launched in cold weather, has died at the age of 73.

Boisjoly's warnings went unheeded, and Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven astronauts onboard. An investigation later attributed the disaster to a failed seal on one of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters. Cold weather prevented a rubber O-ring from maintaining its seal, allowing hot gas to leak and damage the shuttle's external fuel tank.

About six months before the disaster, Boisjoly — an engineer at Morton Thiokol, the firm that built the boosters — wrote a memo warning that freezing temperatures could lead to this nightmare scenario.

"The result would be a catastrophe of the highest order — loss of human life," Boisjoly wrote, according to the Associated Press.

Boisjoly and several colleagues reiterated their concerns the night before Challenger's launch, which was scheduled for an uncharacteristically frigid day at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, Morton Thiokol higher-ups overruled the whistleblowers and gave NASA the go-ahead, the AP reported.

Boisjoly testified before the presidential commission that investigated the Challenger tragedy. Later, he said his whistleblower status profoundly affected his personal and professional life, with both neighbors and workmates giving him the cold shoulder.

"When I realized what was happening, it absolutely destroyed me," Boisjoly told the AP in 1988. "It destroyed my career, my life, everything else. I'm just now getting back to the point where I think I'll be able to work as an engineer again."

Boisjoly died of cancer Jan. 6 in Nephi, Utah, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Provo. He was born in Lowell, Mass., on April 25, 1938. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Roberta, along with two daughters and eight grandchildren, according to the AP.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pejoration: for women, things just get worse

This is just a snippet from a much longer article in The Guardian about a linguisitic term I hadn't heard before: "pejoration". It's related to the more familiar word pejorative, but I didn't think such a term could be verb-ated.  I HAD however thought about some of these words and why they never seemed to match up to their male equivalent. (NOTE: this term isn't to be confused with peroration, which is oratory, or perforation, which is . .  perforatory.)

The denigration of half of the population has embedded itself in the language in ways you may not even be aware of. Often this takes the form of “pejoration”: when the meaning of the word “gets worse” over time. Linguists have long observed that words referring to women undergo this process more often than those referring to men. Here are eight examples:


The female equivalent of “master”, and thus, “a woman having control or authority” – in particular one who employs servants or attendants. It came into English with this meaning from French after the Norman conquest. From the 17th century onwards, it was used to mean “a woman other than his wife with whom a man has a long-lasting sexual relationship”.


This once neutral term meant the female head of a household. Hussy is a contraction of 13th-century husewif – a word cognate with modern “housewife”. From the 17th century onwards, however, it began to mean “a disreputable woman of improper behaviour”. That’s now its only meaning.


The female equivalent of “sir”, a woman of high rank, is still used in formal contexts as a mode of address. From the late 18th century it was also used to mean “a conceited or precocious girl or young woman; a hussy, a minx”, alternatively, a kept mistress or prostitute, and finally, from the late 19th century, the female manager of a brothel.


From the 15th century onwards, “a woman who holds or exercises authority over a place, institution, or group of people”. Compare it with “governor”. Over time it drastically narrowed in scope and fell in status, coming to mean “a woman responsible for the care, supervision, or direction of a person, typically a child or young lady”.


This occupational term originally meant simply someone, usually a woman but possibly a man, who spun yarn or thread. Since a woman without a husband might have to rely on spinning as a source of income, the term became associated with unmarried women, eventually becoming the legal way to refer to one. The more loaded use of it to refer to “a woman still unmarried; esp. one beyond the usual age for marriage, an old maid” begins in the early 18th century.


One of the most dramatic shifts in meaning, from the female equivalent of “courtier” – someone who attends the court of a monarch – to a form of prostitute, which is now its only meaning.


A 13th-century word meaning a female infant or a young unmarried woman quickly acquired negative connotations: from the late 14th century, in Langland and Chaucer it is used to mean “a wanton woman; a mistress”.


Collins dictionary says that this is a 19th-century contraction of “sweetheart”, a term of endearment, particularly to women. From 1887, however, it is attested as meaning “a female of immoral character; a prostitute”.

Thinking about the male equivalents of some of these words throws their sexism into sharp relief. Master for mistress; sir for madam; governor for governess; bachelor for spinster; courtier for courtesan – whereas the male list speaks of power and high status, the female list has a very different set of connotations. These are of either subordinate status or sexual service to men. The crucial thing to remember is that at one time, they were simply equivalents.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

The Canadian Identity: is there anything left of it?

(Actual Amazon reviews of Red Rose tea, which recently came out with a "new and improved" version. All of them gave it one star.)

Why every company feels the need to reinvent a perfectly good product defies me. This "Our best ever" is Red Rose's version of "New Coke". Basically this new "renewable plant material" bag is an excuse to use 10% less tea per bag, which is significant enough to mean that the cup of tea that you've come to love, now tastes like Weasel P!$... With any luck after the initial sales bump from people like me buying up all of the old stock that I can find, they will fix this blunder., and focus on advertising meaningful metrics such as no pesticides found in 3rd party testing, etc.

I have been drinking Red Rose tea for decades. I would occasionally purchase another brand, but always came back to Red Rose because it WAS superior. If I could give the new, supposedly improved tea a minus instead of one star I would. I purchased 3 boxes, my usual purchase at one time. I had to throw out more than half the bags. Not only is there less tea in the bag, which I was aware of, the bag material is terribly thin and flimsy. Most of the bags were broken and the ones that weren't broken opened when hot water was poured over them. If I wanted loose tea I would have purchased loose tea. One of the new tea bags does not make a decent cup of tea, two bags are required and hopefully they don't break. I have had to strain more cups of tea in the last months than I have in my entire life.

I have been a Red Rose tea drinker for years, and I have to say that the new bags from 100% renewable plant material are terrible, in my opinion. I used them for the first time this weekend at an event where we were making large pots of tea (4 bags/pot) and every pot we made had tea leaves in it because one of the bags would come apart at the edges. The previous gauze bags were sturdier.

I'm totally bummed by this new product. Having tried a few cups of the new tea -- adding additional straining for broken bags -- I just tossed my large box of unused tea bags into the compost. The taste is simply not right and who wants to strain tea bags??? I've been drinking tea for over 40 years and I am going to try another brand or maybe some coffee.

"Our best ever"??? I think not. This tea used to be a staple item every morning. Now, I've been forced to change to another brand. You tried to cut costs. You changed the taste. You failed.

Awful - I contacted Red Rose and they said not only did they change their bags but the actual tea leaves! Not the same. I tried Salada, while it's not bad, you have to leave it soaking for a long time to get any taste. Red Rose sent me a coupon for a free purchase which I have not yet used cause I don't know if I want to keep drinking either of their teas (Salada/Red Rose). If anyone from Red Rose reads this, change it back. If anyone here leaving a review has found an alternative that tastes good (Tetley is not an option) please write the name in your comments.

Absolutely TERRIBLE tea!!! I've been drinking this tea for 40 years, but their "new and improved" Orange Pekoe tea is weak and tasteless. Where is the flavour? This tea was good until recently, now I recommend you buy another brand, but not Tetley, it's even worse.

These new tea bags are as foul as the language they evoke. I suggest everyone buy Tetley and add your own rooibos (pronounced royboss) tea. See for yourself if it doesn't compare well with the late Red Rose itself.

A big fat FAIL to Red Rose and their "new and improved taste"!

OK, that's a lot of comments, but there IS a point to all this.

In the past year or so, I kept noticing there was something "off" about my tea, I couldn't taste anything any more, and there was no body to it. It never got any darker in colour even if you brewed it for 20 minutes. Using two tea bags made no difference at all, and there seemed to be far less tea in them. Even that heavenly smell was different.

This is no small matter.  I was weaned on Red Rose. My son wanted some in his milk when he was six. Now it tastes like dishwater, like nothing. 

You must understand that Red Rose tea is a huge part of Canadian identity, like the homey, grungy old Zellers stores which were also taken away from us (to be replaced by Target, which bombed miserably within a year).

Red Rose is not just a Canadian tradition but an institution, and well do I remember those dark-orange cups of fiercely strong brew that my Granny used to drink out of a saucer. The tannin got on your teeth and made them all gritchy, and your throat made that constricting noise when you swallowed. It was wonderful stuff, bracing, and the quality pretty much held until the last year or so, when - oh God - they came out with "our best ever!"

This is always a euphemism for "we're cutting corners and raising the price". I kept dismissing it or wanting it not to be true, then today I went on and found all these one-star reviews, and I agree with all of them. This tea is now atrocious, and there is no excuse for such a steep decline in a product we used to count on. 

I have a theory about this. Red Rose  isn't making any money for whichever massive conglomerate owns it (I've lost track because big fish are constantly being swallowed up by bigger fish). They see their fan base as little old ladies who are dying off. This is largely true: their diehard fans ARE older and are used to the stout-hearted tea of old, the bags of which you could actually use more than once. And then there were those little ceramic figurines: oh God, how I wish I had kept at least one of them!

Maybe they think "new and improved"/"our best ever" will attract consumers of less than a hundred, but I doubt it. It's a traditional product for traditional people, meaning soon it will likely just be discontinued. The search is on for something drinkable, and I am going to start with bulk tea bags at Superstore or Save-on-Foods. No kidding, it might be better. The no-name coffee is actually quite good: we switched when Nabob "improved" their blend. 

Slowly and steadily, small pleasures are being withdrawn from my life. This reminds me of the duck park where we used to walk three or four times a week, our quiet little haven teeming with wildlife. It's now being ripped apart by steamshovels and paved over for an amphiteatre. My lifelong favorite tea, the ONLY tea I would drink, has been taken away from me, rendered washy and tasteless. It's not the same stuff! We're Canadians and you don't fuck with our Red Rose tea, do you hear me? Do you? . . . Is anybody listening?

POST-BLOG BREWINGS. This is a review of "new" Red Rose tea that I stumbled upon today. We had a nice Facebook conversation about it.

Steve Cormier reviewed Red Rose Tea — 1 star

I would rate the new Red Rose a minus 5 if it were possible. I find it rather humorous reading some of these replies and reviews regarding the quality of the tea as of late. I suppose it's fair to assume that some people have yet to experience the taste of the “New and Improved” tea bags so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Claiming that this new product you guys are trying to pass off as Red Rose still tastes the same is a load of rubbish. It's resembles nothing of the quality that once was Red Rose and anyone who claims that they've been drinking Red Rose for a long time and still likes the taste of the new tea has no business reviewing the product or has no knowledge of what a good cup of tea should taste like. Or they're simply paid to post positive comments and reviews on social networking sites in an attempt to elude customers. But the fact remains. The tea tastes different, it tastes awful. I now refer to it as dishwater tea. Growing up Red Rose was a household name. It's was almost just another way of saying tea. My parents, grandparents and other friends and family members consumed it daily. For me it was a coffee in the morning then on to Red Rose for the rest of the day. Drinking several pots throughout the day. So I would know thing or two about how it should taste after drinking it for 30 plus years. As far as my mother and father are concerned its more like 60 years.

Every time I'm in the tea/coffee isle in my local grocery store I talk to other customers about the changes to Red Rose and every single person I talk to has the same feelings about this once great product. “It's not the same... It's different!.. It doesn't taste as good!” In my mind it's fairly obvious what the masterminds at Unilever have done to destroy the taste of what used to be the best cup of tea in Canada, you've sacrificed quality for profits. This is no longer a Canadian brand as it is owned by Unilever and that lot has no loyalty to anything but profits. The teabags break apart in the tea pot and after it steeps. It no longer has the rich, robust flavor, nor color that it once had. So sadly after drinking the product for generations my family has switched and will not be coming back. I'm quite certain that there is a great many other tea drinkers who feel the same way as my family does. I can see it in the grocery store every time I'm there cause the price of Red Rose is going down and it's on sale more often now then it used to be. Obviously no one wants your tea anymore. Or at least not anyone who drinks a lot of tea and knows what a good cup of tea is supposed to taste like. Thank you Unilever for taking Canada's favorite tea and flushing it down the pot.

POST-POST. Today I took a look in my cupboard and saw a very large box of Red Rose tea bags. I decided to do a little investigative reporting, took a tea bag out and really looked at it for the first time.

I had noticed already that they were much lighter than before, and seemed to contain very little tea. The bag was strange-looking, felt slick,  and seemed impermeable, almost like plastic. It's made of some sort of politically-correct fibre now, but it looks like insulation of some kind.

When I cut it open, I jumped. Literally jumped. There's no TEA in there! Instead there is a fine, blackish powder. Not a tea leaf in sight. It was completely shocking.

This is no longer tea, but most people won't unseal a bag to find that out. I tried to pretend it was the same, though I wondered over and over again why I wasn't getting any TEA out of these things, kept adding bags and brewing it longer and longer, to no avail.

Frustrated at the number of tea bags I had left, I decided to try a bold experiment. I cut open three bags of black powder and emptied them into my small (one-mug) teapot. I filled it 2/3 full with boiling water, and let it sit for FIFTEEN minutes. Would this be a drinkable-enough brew to use up the 85 or so Red Rose tea bags I had left?

I had to strain it through a sieve, as I didn't have a tea strainer. But it didn't matter. The "tea leaves" in the hot water poured out bizarrely, like very wet sand, and heaped up in a brown pile that looked like - I have to say this - dog shit. It had a little point on the top and everything.

I am sorry to say that there is still no taste to this stuff. It brewed darker, but there is still no tea aroma, and no discernible flavour.

Red Rose tea. . . is bad tea.

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!