Category Archives: books

From the “Look It Up” Generation

It never ceases to amaze me how people use social media, to the profound exasperation of others.

Let’s just use a hypothetical example for illustration purposes: Someone posts on Instagram a picture of a flower from their garden and in the caption they say, “These are the tulips from my garden! #tulips”. Shortly thereafter, someone posts a question “What kind of flower is that?”

While I can certainly forgive an occasional lack of observation, as I have certainly experienced moments in life when I missed a metaphoric flashing neon sign right in front of me. But I usually chalk that up to rare moments of being very rushed or very tired.

It’s when someone asks a question, when the answer is right in front of them (and sometimes even hashtagged) that the cranky old man in me surfaces.

Personally, in the never ending quest of not wanting to look like an idiot, before asking a question, I usually read the caption and previous posts to be sure that my question has not already been asked and answered.

To me, it is also a matter of being considerate to the person who posted it, not demanding time of them (when they could already be super busy) to answer a question that has already been answered.

However, the practice of posting questions that have been answered is not just an occasional thing. I see it ALL THE TIME all over social media.

Similarly, I find it odd that people go to Facebook to ask questions to a wide group like “Does anyone know if Restaurant ABC…?” (insert any number of questions relating to the food they serve, special dietary needs, delivery services, restaurant hours, etc).

Most restaurants offer a variety of communication vehicles like phone number, email address, Facebook page, Instagram page, web site, online menu, etc. If that is the case, why is the question going to a forum of third parties, and not to the restaurant itself through one of the many online resources the restaurant took the time, effort and expense to make available?

I would definitely cut someone some slack, when information is either not online, hard to find or requires clarification or elaboration. I have no issue there whatsoever. But I struggle to imagine a business that does not have an online presence (especially in the post Covid-19 world), or at the very minimum, a telephone number, for such questions.

To me, it makes absolutely no sense. But then again, I was raised in a “look it up!” household.

I learned early on that when asking out loud what a word meant would almost be like casting a spell on the TV show “Bewitched”, as a dictionary would magically appear next to me within a few seconds, accompanied by the advice “look it up”. Or if I had a more elaborate question about how something worked… poof!… a volume of the encyclopedia would appear, accompanied by the same advice.

Of course, there were some questions that my parents lovingly handled themselves that related more to the complexities of human nature that might not be well served by a single book, and for that I am so grateful.

But for everything else, the “look it up” advice seemed to be the gateway to a life skill that I think make me a pretty resourceful individual.

On top of that, in the house I grew up in, there was no shortage of books but yet, I still had library card and a library three blocks away for those times I had a question I couldn’t answer from our own resources. It didn’t take much encouragement to get me to satisfy my natural curiosity with that kind of research material a few blocks away.

But today, it is absolutely astounding what someone can find online at one’s fingertips, not just from encyclopedic knowledge on just about everything, but demonstration videos, historical pieces, and opinion pieces on what seems like every subject in the universe.

We truly are in a fortunate position for the amount of information available to us. Granted, there is sometimes too much information or (not-too-surprisingly) conflicting information, and it takes a bit of research, analysis and deduction to sort all that out.

I can appreciate how for some, this might feel like homework, I truly do. But if someone cannot do this for a simple question, how will they function in the world (in a job, leading a family, or maintaining a household) if their basic research skills suck.

A Google search does not require hopping in the shower, drying your hair, getting dressed, getting your bike out of the shed, hopping on the bike, riding to the library, locking your bike, consulting the “subject” card catalogue and then scavenging the shelves to find the right book to provide the answer you are looking for.

It is so easy, yet for some, it seems like a giant leap of effort.

My friends and readers can rest assured that I am always delighted to receive feedback and questions, and I have not been in a position of repeatedly answering what was already posted.

But it is when I am scrolling through social media and rolling my eyes to the point of feeling dizzy, when the answer to questions is right in front of the readers, that it makes me want to turn it off.

I think it is safe to assume that I am not alone, having seen an April Fools post this past week about the creation of a Facebook group for questions and answers of this nature, to which many fellow readers took great joy and sarcasm in providing examples of other frivolous group pages that should be offered.

It seems to me that in this day and age, with the Internet offering limitless resources of information like never before, accessible more easily than ever before, what happened to the wonderful art of looking it up to answer to one’s natural curiosity?

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Books or eReaders? It Depends.

I may be a little late to the party, but recently, I have been wanting to join in on the discussion among book lovers about whether they preferred books or eReaders (electronic reading devices and apps).

Since their appearance on the market a little more than a decade ago, eReaders have steadily gained in popularity, thus creating a discussion among avid readers that would have been considered science fiction in the decades prior.

It warms the cockles of my heart to see the passion with which individuals explain perfectly valid reasons for their preferred option. I also find the deep loyalty with which they express their preference to be charming, magical and absolutely convincing as I can relate to every word.

Where both camps meet in the middle is in their articulation of love of the written word and for reading in general, which is a joy in itself.

The reason I am only jumping into the conversation now is because of my recent realization that my own preference has changed a couple of times, depending on other factors.

Back when I was commuting daily by bus, I had loads of time on my hands. When I wasn’t listening to music and watching the scenery go by, reading was something that helped me to pass the time as well as to decompress from a heavy work day.

However, there were limitations to what I could bring with me. A heavy hardcover book was out of the question. With a messenger bag already pretty full with healthy food choices and a few necessities in case of emergency, adding a heavy book could have easily had me walking with a distinct tilt and risking additional visits to the chiropractor. Continue reading

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What the 2010s Meant To Me

New Year's festivitiesIn recent weeks, not only have we been bombarded with retrospectives from the last year, but as with any year ending with a “9”, we’ve seen our lives flashing before our eyes with scenes from the last decade as well.

One evening, as I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic (again!), just for fun, I asked myself what were my own favourite moments of the last decade.

It was a fun activity that completely took me out of the drudgery of traffic. My spirits were lifted as I rattled off a list of great memories. When I got home, I took out the iPad and started noting them, one-by-one. In the days that followed, more ideas kept coming to mind and the list continued to grow.

Just like everybody else, I experienced personal and professional highs and lows. But it was because these experiences that I will remember this decade fondly as the one where I experienced the greatest and most significant personal growth.

Despite what I thought was a pretty good tool kit for handling stress, this past decade offered a pressure cooker of situations that tested my tool kit to its limits when anxiety took over. With the help of a psychotherapist, I was able to establish better boundaries which not only contributed to enhancing that tool kit, but also helped to prevent some situations from festering into anxiety in the first place. Continue reading

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Which Book to Read Next?

Over the last couple of years, I have been making time to enjoy one of life’s sweet yet simple pleasures: I have reconnected with my love for books.

Where I used to reserve books for bedtime reading, I have since rejigged my schedule to allow time in the morning to slowly sip my coffee, to listen to some relaxing music, to read for a bit and to gently ease into my day.

After decades of going from 0 to 60, hitting the ground running as soon as my feet swung out of bed and hit the floor, this new routine has become a welcome and preferred approach to start the day off right.

It offers me the time to slowly wake up, to breathe and to reconnect with my positive energy. It seems to gently nudge the brainwaves into action rather than a speedy immersion into worrying about what the day ahead holds.

In making reading part of my morning routine, rather than taking six months to finish a book, I have been averaging one book per month, although I have impressed myself by finishing some in a matter of days when I just couldn’t put them down.

In the last couple of years, I have filled my mind, my heart and my soul with fascinating biographies, I have read some classics that I missed, I have explored some books on personal growth and new ways of thinking, and I have devoured books that will help me grow as a writer and as an artist. Continue reading

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A Renaissance of Storytelling

As a little dude, I remember that both my parents were avid readers. And as far back as I can remember, I was surrounded by books, not only in my parents’ library but in the growing library in my bedroom as well.

As an only child with an inclination for “the great indoors”, it didn’t take much coaxing to get me to share in their joy of reading and the love of a good story.

This love followed me around for a lifetime, in all of its forms whether movies, TV dramas, soap operas, biographies, classic novels, contemporary novels, plays, musicals, operas or even newspaper articles. You could say I have been a glutton for good, well-told stories.

Good stories have tugged at my heart and have inspired me. Good stories made me love some characters while I loathed others. Good stories have taken me to places near and far, real and imagined.

Stories have been a constant in my life, no matter how busy I got. There was always time for a good story here and there, for those moments I needed a little escape… or even a big escape.

I don’t know why, but lately I have noticed that my appetite for good stories is growing, bordering on insatiable. The more I see great stories, the more I want to see.

I savour every moment of stories of triumph, stories of personal growth, stories of courage, stories of social change, stories of love, stories of gratitude, stories of survival and stories of our ancestors.

Sometimes when I hear a great story, I sometimes pick up on one idea, one character, or one thread of the story line and think that you could throw the spotlight on just that one element and create a whole new story around it. There is really no end to the potential of storytelling. Continue reading

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The Hunt for the Perfect Reading Light

During a recent power outage, as much as I was counting on getting a few things accomplished that night, I had to put my plans on the shelf because they all depended on electricity.

An attempt at cleaning the house in the dark became a time consuming exercise with the added step of redirecting the flashlight at different angles to keep checking to see if I hit the right spots. True enough, I had all the time in the world, but the brewing frustration wasn’t worth it.

I instantly saw the bright side, so to speak, in deciding that this would be a perfect opportunity to catch up on my reading. With stacks of books that awaited, I relished the thought of an evening in quiet serenity, enjoying a good read.

I went to the basement and pulled out my lantern-style LED flashlight. I poured myself a glass of wine and along the way, I picked up the book I was reading at the time.

When I found my comfy spot in the living room for Ivy the Wonder Cat and me to chill out, I put my glass down next to me, I set up the lantern and opened my book.

One minute later, I moved my lantern to a different spot because I couldn’t see half of the page, as my shoulder was causing a shadow. One minute after that, I moved the lantern again, this time a little closer, to give the light more intensity because the light was too weak to comfortably illuminate my page. Continue reading

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Rekindling My Love for Classic Novels

This past summer, I was completely captivated by the PBS television program, “The Great American Read”.

The PBS Web Site describes the show as: “THE GREAT AMERICAN READ was an eight-part series that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigated how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.”

I am certain I am not the only reader who scanned each title on the list (…a few times!) to see how many I have read over the years.

I was most delighted at discovering that two of the titles on the list were part of my high school experience: “1984” by George Orwell (which I absolutely loved, especially since I read it in 1983) and “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier.

There were a few others that I had read later in life for the fun of it, like “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

And there were many stories for which I hadn’t read the books but I knew well from the cinematic versions, such as “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Gone With the Wind”, “The Help”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “The Color Purple”, to name a few.

I really enjoyed the PBS program because in each episode, teachers, authors and celebrities would speak about the books, offering their opinions as to what they enjoyed, what they got out of it and what resonated with them. Continue reading

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