Saturday, 30 April 2011

Saturday Photo: A Granite Bench Commemorating Portugal's Bard

Rain glistened on the granite last week, but the words of 12 Portuguese writers shone though the bad weather, even triumphing over graffiti left by taggers.

The words--short quotations in Portuguese with French translations--are a unique tribute to a culture that changed the world five centuries ago and changed Montreal much more recently. They are engraved on a dozen granite benches on St. Lawrence boulevard, a joint project of the city of Montreal, the Institut Camões and other groups.

I wrote about them in an article I did this week for SpacingMontreal and I'll be talking about them next Saturday and Sunday when I do a Jane's Walk in Montreal's Bairro Português. If you'd like more info, check out the Facebook page: I'd love to see you there as we visit a neighborhood that Jane Jacobs would have loved.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Saturday Photo: A Granite Bench Commemorating Portugal's Bard

Rain glistened on the granite last week, but the words of 12 Portuguese writers shone though the bad weather, even triumphing over graffiti left by taggers.

The words--short quotations in Portuguese with French translations--are a unique tribute to a culture that changed the world five centuries ago and changed Montreal much more recently. They are engraved on a dozen granite benches on St. Lawrence boulevard, a joint project of the city of Montreal, the Institut Camões and other groups.

I wrote about them in an article I did this week for SpacingMontreal and I'll be talking about them next Saturday and Sunday when I do a Jane's Walk in Montreal's Bairro Português. If you'd like more info, check out the Facebook page: I'd love to see you there as we visit a neighborhood that Jane Jacobs would have loved.

Spring Has Sprung

A photo for a day that is full of activity. More later...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Trying to Keep Connected: How Do Those Folks Find Time to Tweet and All That?

Interesting series of columns on The Atlantic Wire about how various luminaries keep up with what's going on. I can't believe how much time some people spend on their electronic devices.

Malcolm Gladwell is the most recent. He writes: "I grew up in a family that didn’t get a daily newspaper, didn’t have a television, and never went to the movies. We just read books and went for walks. Not much has changed." Somewhat apologetically he says he ends up reading The New York Times a day late, only checks a few blogs, subscribes to one Twitter feed, and spends a lot of time in the library and reading books.

"On Saturdays, I replace The Times with the Wall Street Journal--which I think has a wonderful weekend arts section, and the weekend edition of the Financial Times, which has many wonderful things as well, including my fellow-Canadian Tyler Brûlé, of whom I am slightly in awe. Every once in a while I drop by the local magazine store, and buy my true love: car magazines: Car and Driver, Road & Track and—best of all—the brilliant English CAR, every issue of which I have read cover to cover going back to forever." Plus there's all the books he says he reads. There's no mention of the amount of reading he must do for the interesting work he does for The New Yorker and other publications.

That's a lot, it seems to me. I've even let my New Yorker subscription lapse because I couldn't keep up with it. Don't think I'll check out some of the more wired contributors, because I'll get bent out of shape trying to figure out how they have so much more time than I have to keep in the loop.

Now back to electioneering, and helping to make news, not merely read it.

Nonsense from the US, As An Antidote to Worry about Whether the Polls are Right

US President Barack Obama spent some of his valuable time today releasing the long form of his birth certificate from the State of Hawaii. Right wing nuts have been clamoring for this for months, claiming that Obama was not born in the US and so is not eligible constitutionally to be president.

What a bunch of nonsense, what a waste of everyone's time. At least we don't have that here. BAck to work. Get out the vote, because that NDP support in the polls isn't going to translate into seats unless there's a big turnout.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Green Roof for the Jean-Talon Market

The city of Montreal has yet to give its complete okay--a few questions about the weight-bearing ability of the market buildings remain--but it looks like this summer will see the roof of Montreal's most interesting public market covered with green plants.

Le Devoir had the story on the weekend, as everybody was supposed to be celebrating Earth Day, but in the confusion of competing events--there's a federal election on, for heaven's sake, as well as holidays for Christians, Jews and rabbits--I didn't note it properly. Some 30 per cent of the 50,000 square feet of roof covering the stalls will planted with lettuce and similar plants for use by a terrace-resto that will also be installed. The rest of the surface, now a conventional tar and gravel roof--will be painted green which will be less heat-absorbent than what is there now.

Sounds like a great idea...

Monday, 25 April 2011

Haven't Made Up Your Mind How to Vote? Here's a Good Tool to Help You Decide How to Beat Harper

This was sent along by an NDP friend, Lise St-Denis. It's Project Democracy, a site where you can see which candidate is likely to beat the Conservatives in next Monday's elections in your riding. Where there's no chance of an upset you're advised to vote your conscience.

Example: in Vancouver Kingsway, the site advises: "Liberal/Conservative David Emerson is not running and the general Liberal upheaval in 2008 has begun a new ball game in this riding. NDP Don Davies won with almost 3,000 votes ahead of the Liberals, but the Conservatives were close behind. Notwithstanding incumbency, it is hard to call it a safe NDP seat, and the most recent polling indicates a NDP-Liberal race. We will monitor this riding and make a recommendation if it looks like vote-splitting could accidentally help Harper. Please check sign up to our list and/or check back again." The prediction Monday morning: NDP, 16,600; Libs, 14,000; and Cons, 10,600.

Lise, herself, is running for the NDP in St. Maurice-Champlain which, the site says, "has historically been a secure Bloc riding, but Conservative support doubled between 2004 and 2006. With Conservative support dropping in Quebec, the riding should be safe. Vote your preference, but check back to be sure. " The prediction Monday was for the BQ to get 16,000 and Lise for the NDP, to get about 11,000 with the Cons behind at about 9,ooo.

In Okanagon-Coquihalla where our friends John and Barbara Yellowlees are campaigning for the Liberal John Kidder and the NPD candidate Dave Finnis is a fine man, the advice is: "A Conservative stronghold. Even with Conservative Stockwell Day retiring from politics it is difficult to see this riding switching to Liberal or NDP. Vote your preference." The site Monday morning gave the Conservative 27,000 votes to the NDP's 9,000 and the Libs, 7,000.

In Outremont where NDP Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair is running for a third mandate against former MP Martin Cauchon, the site show the NDP way out in front, the site advises voting your preferene too--and of course, I'd say Mulcair is the way to go.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Saturday Photo: Signs of Spring (Indoors)

There isn't much in bloom outside yet, and besides it's raining so I don't feel like going out to take photos of what is there. Therefore this morning, here's a taste of what is inside. The Christmas cactus which bloomed last November has bloomed again: it obviously likes the south-east exposure oin our temporary apartment, as does the poinsettia which was a gift just before the fire and which I thought had expired in December.

The other two photos are of branches brought inside in an attempt to force the season. The pussy willows I bought at our neighborhood florist, but the pear branches--which after a day have begun to bud--are from a tree in our "real" backyard. Usually they bloom the first or second week in May so the branches are primed, ready to burst into a cloud of white blossoms. Given the cold, damp weather this year, though, it may be two or three weeks before that happens.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Friday Frolics: Some Good Reasons Not to Vote Harper

This just about covers the waterfront in terms of age, gender, and ethnic group

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Progessive Voters Turn to NDP: Is This a Sea Change in Voting Patterns?

The Quebec polls and the media this morning are full of "astounding" news: the New Democrat Party under Jack Layton has surpassed the Bloc Québécois in voter intentions in Quebec. It is running well ahead of the Liberals and leaving the Conservatives in the dust.

But is that really all that surprising? Anybody who has followed the Bloc Québécois over the years knows that BQ positions on many things have been steadily leftish. The Bloquists, in the main, believe that government has an important role to play in society, which is something that a large majority of Quebeckers believe also. It would seem that many voters here are seriously considering opting for the other party whose ideas correspond to theirs on most issues.

The problem, of course, is whether that rising NDP support will translate into more NDP seats or whether it will only split the vote so that in a few ridings where BQ and Conservative candidates are close, the Cons will sneak through

More than 20 years ago, as an organizer of an NDP campaign I had the unhappy experience of contributing to the election of a Conservative, Jean-Pierre Hogue, in the federal riding of Outremont. Lucie Pépin was running for re-election as a Liberal and the NDP candidate was Louise O'Neill, a charming, intelligent, legally-trained translator. Pépin got 34.7 per cent of the vote, O'Neill, 20.5 per cent, and the Conservative, 38.4 per cent: in other words the women candidates--whose positions on pro-choice were similar--split the progressive vote.

But a lot of time has past. The election of Thomas Mulcair, as a New Democrat in a by election in 2007 and again in the 2008 general election, shows the depth of the progressive tendency in the riding. This time he is running well ahead of Martin Cauchon, the Liberal candidate this time around and the man who easily defeated Hogue in 1993. Elsewhere in the province, Jack Layton is extremely popular, too.

Rather than splitting the vote to the benefit of the Conservatives, a more interesting scenario would be the sort of massive shift in votes which occured in 1984 when Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives (mostly Red Tories and quite different from the sort of folk running with Stephen Harper) swept the province.

Wouldn't it be amazing is something similar happened this time with the NDP!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Soul Music from Québec: Richard Desjardin's New Album Is Out

Like Leonard Cohen, that other guy born with "a golden voice," Richard Desjardins is a national treasure. Existoire, his just-released album is great, mixing the personal and the political in a terrific brew. Even if your French is high school level, you'll like his bluesy, funky, folksy songs.

This is the guy, by the way, whose film L'érreur boréale (Forest Alert, in its English version) is credited with saving great swaths of Quebec's boreal forest.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Reading from Making Waves at Blue Metropolis

Here's a head's up: Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure will be featured at the Blue Metropolis International Literaray Festival. I'll be reading from it on Sunday, May 1, at 11 a.m. along with three other Canadian writers in a session called "Rebuking the Present."

For more information, check out the Blue Met programming.

The photo, by the way, is of where the Portuguese explorers set sail from: the Torre de Belém just outside Lisbon.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Information Control: Will the Internet Become Another Comercial Radio?

Very interesting review in The New York Review of Books about reflections on the internet. Among the points: radio in its infancy offered the same sort of easy entrance and wide audience that the internet enjoys now. It was only when corporations--the Radio Corporation of America, for one--began to see the potential for making money through controlling the number of voices that radio became something.

The moral here is clear. The internet may be hard to control, but governments and business is going to want to do so. We must remain vigilant, and not be wooed by gadgets to give up our voices. Rememeber: there's 500 channels on television and not much worth watching.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Saturday Photo: The Snow Is Nearly Gone

We moved into this place just before the first sticking snow of the year, so the view has been of a snow-covered Mount Royal. But time has past (four and a half months!) and the season has changed. During the rain and warmer temperatures of earlier this week, the snow on the mountain just about disappeared.

Of course, it's cold again today, and the terraces which hopeful restaurateurs installed last weekend are deserted, but things are considerably more spring-like than they were a little while ago.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Out of Africa: Language as Well as Our Forefathers

Fascinating story in the New York Times this morning about a study published this week in Science, contending that tracking the number of phonemes a language can indicate the path that the people who speak it took as they migrated.

The study starts out with the observation that African languages, like Khoisan, have as many as 100 phonemes--the discreet sounds that we use to form words--but Hawaiian, spoken on islands that were quite recently colonized by humans, has only 13. English has about 45, by way of comparison.

Mapping the number of phonemes shows the same pattern that mapping genetic diversity produces. The conclusion to draw: we're all related on the tips of our tongues as well as under our skin.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Two Montreal Boys Duddy Kravitz and Dov Charney: Which One Is the Beautiful Loser?

The New York Times today has a profile of Dov Charney, the founder and driving force behind American Apparel. To understand him, "he suggests they read The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, a 1959 novel by the Canadian author Mordecai Richler," the article says.

"Duddy is an ambitious Jew from Montreal who is obsessed with money and power; he suffers a nervous breakdown and declares bankruptcy, then takes money from a friend to buy land he covets. Mr. Charney, 42, is also ambitious, Jewish and from Montreal, and said he sees in Duddy a kindred spirit. Like himself, Mr. Charney explained, “Duddy is trying to be somebody.”

Interesting literary reference, nice to think that Charney, despite being dyslexic (his father architect Morris Charney is quoted in the story as saying that "practiced out of my home so I could keep an eye on him") maybe read the book all the way through.

But his statement is proof that it takes two to make a book: the writer and the reader, who brings to the reading all his and her cultural and personal baggage. A good book is one that can be read with pleasure and/or profit by widely divergent people. And certainly that is the case with Duddy. Kravitz and Charney come from different layers of Montreal society, with Dov's desire to be "somebody" arising from a desire to set himself off in a family of architects, artists, successful businessmen and writers. Duddy, on the other hand, is poor and doesn't want to stay that way.

Big, telling differences. It would be interesting to know what Charney thinks of that other son of Montreal: Leonard Cohen, also a product of the tony Westmount enclave. Certainly he might find Beautiful Losers instructive reading too, as he faces a passle of law suits for sexual harassement begun recently by former workers.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Freedom and (Re)moving Mountains: Our Thirst for Electricity and Its Effects

As I said earlier, one of the most interesting and disturbing books I've read recently is Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. In it, one of the major conflicts concerns a man whose heart is in the right place, but who becomes an agent for the destruction of West Virginia communities by "mountain top removal" in the name of preserving a small bird species.

Franzen presents a damning, but nearly sympatheic, portrait of American society. Some of the characters border on being caricatures, however, although their motivations are always very understandable. So, too, the situations Franzen creates for them are frequently laughable in the gallows humor tradition. But if a reader ever thought the basic problems the characters face are overdrawn, a story in today's New York Times proves just how carefully Franzen reflects reality.

"Various government regulations require that coal companies return the stripped area to its “approximate original contour,” or “reclaim” the land for development in a state whose undulating topography can thwart plans for even a simple parking lot," the story says. "As a result, the companies often dump the removed earth into a nearby valley to create a plateau, and then spray this topsy-turvy land with seed, fertilizer and mulch....

"The result is "an out-of-context clot(s) of land (rising) hundreds of feet in the air — a valley fill, that has been “hydroseeded” with fast-growing, non-native plants to replace the area’s lost natural growth: its ginseng root, its goldenseal, it hickory and oak, maple and poplar, black cherry and sassafras."

Why? Because coal generates electricity, and we all need electricity. It's the same kind of sitaution that led to the construction of nuclear reactors without adequate fail-safe systems in Japan, that is leading to global warming.

The solution? We must use less energy, and it's up to us all to figure out how to do that.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Last of the First Computer Programers Dies, and, Suprise, She Was a Woman

Never heard of Jean Bartik, born Betty Jean Jennings? Neither had I until yesterday when I read her obituary in the Globe and Mail: she died March 23, 2011 at 86. She was one the six young women recruited to program the first computer, ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator.) Designed by guy engineers and commissioned by the US military, the machine wasn't operational until after World War II was over, but opened the way to our wired world.

"We had no manuals for ENIAC," she is quoted as saying. "We learned how to program by studying the logical block diagrams. What a blessing. From the beginning, I knew how computers worked. We gained the respect of the engineers from the beginning because we really knew what we were doing and we could debug better than they could because we had our test programs as well as our knowledge of the computer."

After the War she worked as a programmer for several years, but in her sixties she was pushed out of the industry, the Globe obit (which I can't find on the web) said. The obit quoted her son as saying that she ended her life selling real estate.

As I watched the YouTube interview I thought of another woman who left small town America to spread her wings and fulfill her promise during the middle of the 20th century: Jane Jacobs. Hats off to them...and to the many, many women born before who were never able to show their stuff.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Crime Rate Is Falling, Not the Sky: Why Harper's Message Appeals Even Though It's Counter-Factual

One of the most puzzling things for me is the way so many Canadians believe that Stephen Harper is going to save us from something, that they have to vote for him because otherwise there would be doom and gloom.

Ian Brown in Saturday's Globe and Mail takes aim at the question and comes up with some pretty interesting answers. Specifically, he examines the complete disconnect between our current falling crime rate and the fear of crime that Harper and his friends are exploiting. "Don't confuse me with the facts," is perhaps the easiest reaction: Harper doesn't want to know about crime statistics, just as he doesn't want to know how we live. For the latter, he cancels the long form census. For the former, he "stands up for victims," discounting all the stats and studies which show that throwing more and more people in jail doesn't make us safer.

Brown writes: "For many years, Canada's approach to criminality ..relied less on prison and more on rehabilitation, on changing people...

"(But) If people are unlikely to change, the bad ones can be locked up. That way the bad people will be in one place, and the good people will be in another place, and we'll never have to be confused as to who is whom.

'We think we want to be tough on crime because we're afraid of criminals, but it turns out we're not. We're afraid of ourselves, and who we might turn out to be."

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Saturday Photo: Scenes from Kerala

Next week is book talk week, and on Monday the book at the Pierrefonds Library is Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things. It takes place in Kerala state on the west coast of India, a beautiful, green part of the world which has the highest literacy rate in India, and decidely left wing political tendancies.

I visited there in 2005 when I was researching Green City, and was surprised to discover that Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died there on his third voyage out. That's one of the things that started me thinking about the role of the Portuguese over history. So a trip for one book led to another, Making Waves. You never know where things are going to end up!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Because the World Is Such Mess These Days: Two Bits of Good News

At the turn of the year, I decided that we needed some good news, so I ran down five items that I thought might lift spirits. The news these days seems even worse--nuclear generating plants spewing radiactive water, the Arab Spring stalling in Libya, the US government grinding to a halt, not to mention Stephen Harper-- so it seems to me that more good news is in order.

Okay: here are two local items:

1. Young people in Montreal are giving older folks and parents with children their seats on public transport. When I was traveling buses and the Metro with small children, nobody ever offered us a seat, yet I've seen it happen regularly lately. And as a lady of a certain age, I can attest that nearly every time I get on a crowded bus somebody younger signals that they'd be pleased to get up for me. I usually smilingly refuse, but I've taken to saying in a loud voice how polite young people are these days.

2. Dog owners pick up after there pets. Twenty-five years ago when we were walking a dog, we were about the only people scooping poop, and when the thaw came about this time of year, Montreal stank. The little plastic bag with or without a plastic shovel now seems standard dog-walking equipment, though, and as the ice and snow has melted this year, I've been delighted to see how little dog droppings have been uncovered, even in the densely populated, dog-loving neighborhood we're living in for the duration.

These are small things on the cosmic scale, but sometimes small things are what you need to keep you going.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Those Corporate Tax Cuts Don't Do What They Are Supposed to Do: Or Another Reason the Cons are Wrong

By Wednesday night the story had fallen off The Globe and Mail's main web page, but it clearly deserves more attention than that. "Corporate tax cuts don't spur growth, analysis reveals as election pledges fly" read the headline in the print editon. Karen Howlett's careful analysis uncovered how corporations in recent years have hogged, not invested, the money they've been getting in tax breaks that are supposed to encourage investment.

At one time, businesses did use the money for just that, Howlett writes. "From 1960 until the early 1990s, corporations invested almost every penny of their after-tax cash flow back into the business.

"But the tax cuts appear to have reversed decades of tradition. Investment in equipment and machinery has fallen to 5.5 per cent in 2010 as a share of Canada’s total economic output from 6.8 per cent in 2005 and 7.7 per cent in 2000."

Why? I'd say greed, as well as a perception that business can get whatever it wants from governments like Stephen Harper's.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

From Rome's Decline to Detroit's Down-Sizing: Changes in Urban Spaces

Rome declined, we all know that. From a million people at the beginning of the Common Era, its population was down to five percent of that in the Middle Ages. Now Detroit--once the capital of the Auto Empire--is up against a similar challenge: how to adjust to a loss of a quarter of its population.

Part of the plan, according to the New York Times, is guiding people to leave declining neigborhoods and concentrate in more stable ones, where it will be easier to deliver services. Some see this as a new form of "urban renewal" which, like the old one, requires the poor to do the moving and provides the better off with a better functioning city.

Others see it as a chance to homestead the city, to reclaim disused land for agriculture, to create new jobs and provide better, cheaper, local food.

Sounds interesting, particularly if you've been browsing books like a new one recommended by a friend: Urban Homesteading. Other urban homesteaders like ones in Pasadena have been trying this kind of thing for a couple of decades.

But I don't think anybody has taken a big, formerly industrial city, and tried to turn it into an agricultural community. Will it work? Probably not on the scale that some would like. There are so many things that could go wrong. Remember that when Rome began to grow again in the Renaissance, much of the marble used to construct those grand ruins of the Empire were taken out and burned to make lime for new construction.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Who's Going to Take Stockwell Day's Old Seat? Interesting Race in BC Interior

Some of my best friends are Liberals, particularly in other parts of the country. For some time, I've followed the adventures of John and Barbara Yellowlees, residents of Okanagan-Coquhalla in the BC interior and Liberals much involved in their community. Stockwell Day held it until the election writ was dropped, and a Penticton city councillor Dan Albas has been annointed by Day and the Conservatives as their candidate.

But John and his friends have found a very interesting candidate for the Liberals, John Kidder. A former businessman, cowboy and fish plant worker, he appears to represent the best that the Liberal Party can offer.

This is not to say that, NDP stalwart that I am, I would necessarily vote for him. The NDP candidate David Finnis also appears to be a good candiate, representing the values of the two-thirds of the country who voted against Stephen Harper last time around.

The point is that we have choices in this election, and for people who care about Canada, Harper's Conservatives are not what we should choose. And wouldn't be great to turn back the Conservatives in Day's old riding!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Snow's Nearly Gone, Snowdrops Are Up, Maybe One Day the House Will Be Repaired

There are few better ways to spend a spring Saturday afternoon than raking the front yard. Often, though, I don't get around to doing it until later, but this year I knew it should be done earlier.

When the workers took down the plaster in much of the house last December they dragged the debris outside in fresh snow. While most of the junk made it into the removal truck, some remained in the front yard all winter, hidden under the snow. The thaw uncovered it all, and I knew with the spring rains the it would dissolve, changing the pH of the soil What grows there is pretty hardy--mostly native plants, in fact--but over the years I've worked out a pretty good balance, and I don't want to mess with it.

So Saturday I raked, freeing up the snowdrops which are now lovely. Wish the work inside the house was going as quickly and splendidly as the plants are growing outside. This is what my office looked like a week ago--all the hardwood floors have been pulled up as has the plaster and much of the lath.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Saturday Photo: Bixis Are Back--Or Will Be Soon!

Walking around central Montreal the past few days has been encouraging. A number of Bixi docks are already in place--work started last week--and the populalr bicycle rental system should be up and running by April 15.

It looks like there will be a dock just outside our door on Henri-Julien. Certainly this is a biking part of town. The young men in the apartment next to ours biked all winter and on all but the snowiest mornings a steady stream of bikes passed with courageous--or crazy, take your pick--riders commuted on narrow, congested Mont Royal avenue.

Lee just asked me if I'd try biking around the Plateau. Might save some time getting to the house once work starts there (four months since the fire and not much has happened!) There's a dock already installed a block over, and the ride from the apartment would be only about five minutes instead of the 20 it takes to walk.

But I'll leave the bikes to braver souls, and enjoy the walk...

The picture, BTW, was taken earlly last fall, when all but one of the bikes from the dock on Hutchison were in use.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Harper Likes Families, Eh? Or the Return of Dick and Jane

It's taken me a while to consider what Stephen Harper is proposing to aid Canada's families. The proposal to allow income splitting once the deficit is paid down seemed laughable to begin with, but the more I think about it, the worse it becomes. Taken with the other electoral promises, it becomes clear that what the Harperites want is women at home, and taking care of the kids.

Income splitting is only good when there is one good income and two partners. Families living on the edge with both parents working at low wage jobs are going to reap no advantage, nor are single parent families.

Tax credits for sports and arts programs for kids also only help those who've got enough time and energy to enroll their kids in such programs.

The current $100 a month child care credit doesn't do much for families who must pay for someone else to care for the kids. It doesn't even cover Quebec's $7 a day charge in the only government-run, inclusive day care system in Canada.

Harper's Canada is an attempt to return to world where Dick, Jane and Sally lived in a suburban house with a stay at home Mom and a Dad who wore suits to work. I found that world alien decades ago when I was a child, and I certainly don't see any of the young families I know living in it.