Category Archives: pop culture

My Fascination with the “Director’s Commentary”

In my insatiable thirst for knowledge about the world of screenwriting, I recently (and accidentally, I might add) stumbled upon a learning tool that was right under my nose that had completely slipped my mind.

One day, in a moment of nostalgia, I decided to pull out the movie “Grease” and pop it into the Blu-Ray player. When the movie was over, I wandered over to the disc’s “Special Features” menu. The interview with the movie’s choreographer, Patricia (Pat) Birch, sounded like a lot of fun.

During the segment, Ms. Birch explains the complex logistics involved in choreographing the dance scenes for the 200 dancers. I found her explanations fascinating!

Once the veil of the behind-the-scenes magic had been lifted, I wanted to go back and re-watch three of my favourite numbers to see the end result.

I’m not sure how I did it, but I ended up watching those scenes with the “Director’s Commentary” track activated. In the special feature, director Randal Kleiser and Pat Birch discuss several of the technical aspects of the movie shoot, the logistics, the vision, and the collaborative and collective effort that went into the project. At the same time, they share their memories of the filming as well as fun facts and trivia. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiring, pop culture, TV, Writing

Any Time is Cereal Time

a bowl of Cheerios cerealIt’s only when you start living with someone that you find out that something that might appear perfectly normal to you, might look weird to someone else.

With my partner and me, one of those things is cereal.

My partner typically eats cereal in the morning as many people do. But for myself, any time is cereal time.

However, I had no idea that my way of consuming this crunchy goodness later in the day would raise eyebrows in the way that it did.

It was when I confessed to him that I rarely ate cereal before noon that I seemed to truly go… against the grain.

The reality is that while I was growing up, the health food store was a regular stop on our weekly errands, long before health food stores gained the popularity that they attract today.

On grocery day, it didn’t matter how many cereal commercials I could quote from my Saturday morning cartoons “as part of a balanced breakfast”, brown eggs, yogurt and protein shakes were the preferred breakfast options in our household. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under food, pop culture, stories

Shopping Like I’d Never Shopped Before

Over the course of the Covid-19 lockdowns and closures of non-essential businesses, we had accumulated a short shopping list of items that weren’t available online, or for which some degree of browsing or comparison shopping was required.

When the province announced the first phase of reopening of non-essential stores, part of me yelled, “Start the car!” like in those legendary IKEA commercials, but the reasonable part of me took a deep breath and said, “Slow down… not just yet”.

At that point, my next vaccination was still a couple of weeks away and the variants to the virus still presented enough unknown risk for me to want to choose my errands carefully. The last thing I wanted to do was to be in the stores with hordes of other shoppers, making a June shopping trip feel like Black Friday or Boxing Day.

With the expansion of the vaccination program and the daily improvement in new case numbers, I knew that the appropriate thing to do was to wait.

But my neck was saying otherwise as I needed a new pillow in the worst possible way. The extra firm pillow I was using was well past its expiry date. In fact, it was probably past its useful life a couple of months after Covid-19 started, so it was no surprise to me to be regularly waking up with a kinked neck.

Not to boast or anything, but given that medium-sized hats are too small to fit my Charlie Brown round head, I often wonder if I go through pillows so quickly because of the sheer magnitude and associated weight of this globe of a skull.

Another theory, presented by a salesperson at a mattress store, was that foam pillows do eventually break down over time through body heat and sweat. I accept that possibility too, but it seems that I go through pillows the way other people go through tissues. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Humour, pop culture, stories

How the Olympics Inspire Me

Even though I am not what you might call a sport enthusiast, I definitely enjoy watching the Olympics.

Over the years, I have watched a wide range of Olympic events, including some that I admit I probably would not have watched had they not been under the Olympic banner. This year, between the CBC network’s curated coverage, supplemented by so many streaming opportunities for specific events, it made it so easy (and maybe a little addictive) to follow the action.

The variety reminds me a little of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” that I used to watch as a kid (back when we only had 12 channels). The packaging of that show appealed to this curious young mind as it was a veritable smorgasbord of sporting events to discover. If I was more athletically inclined, who knows what inspiration could have been sparked later in life.

Unfortunately, my weak eye-hand coordination, my lack of overall coordination, my lack of physical stature and the lasting trauma of dodgeball in my pre-teens, prevented me from pursuing a career in sports.

Even after the Covid-19 lockdowns, it’s not like I was running out of viewing options, given the long list of binge-worthy streaming programming I had accumulated over the years. The Olympic coverage remained an enjoyable change of pace that I looked forward to.

Plus, as a recent retiree, watching the Olympics seemed even more special and more symbolic to me, as I could take in more coverage than I usually would have back in my working days. This year, the Olympics were an additional reminder of my new found freedom from the “9 to 5”.

Why do I watch the Olympics? Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Health and Wellness, pop culture, Running, TV

How Music Can Change One’s Mood in a Split Second

This past week, as I was out for the once-per-week, masked, sanitized, and respectfully socially-distanced grocery store run, I had one of those moments that have become all too familiar.

As I turned my king-sized grocery cart around a corner, I was disappointed to see someone going in the wrong direction, completely contrary to the arrows on the ground. I asked myself, after 13 months of Covid-19, have we not gotten the choreography down yet?

But before the cranky old man within me had a chance to fully surface and irritate me for the rest of the grocery run, the grocery store’s speaker system launched into the first notes of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun”.

As I started humming along (hey, if there’s only 25 people allowed in the store at one time, I can softly hum with a smile under my mask) my mood instantly changed and the non-compliant grocery shopper was already deleted from my consciousness.

When you review the lyrics, it’s not like “Soak Up the Sun” is one of the cheeriest songs ever written, but the chorus, the music and its associated music video convey to me a certain lightness and free-spiritedness that have often helped me let go of some of the little irritants in life.

Have you ever noticed how songs seem to have that power over us, to – please forgive the cliché – turn a frown upside down? And have you ever been in a situation where you are driving around, enjoying a string of one good song after another, and actually hoping for red lights to slow down your commute to enjoy the tunes?

Much like with “Soak Up the Sun”, it doesn’t always have to be about uplifting lyrics, sometimes it can be all about the music itself and a skillful arrangement that just strikes the right notes to raise ones spirits or even better, to energize. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 50+, Inspiring, Lists, music, pop culture

My Mixed Emotions Over a New iPad

You would think that I would have been over the moon with delight about purchasing a new iPad. I wasn’t. In fact, I was annoyed at having to accept defeat.

My previous iPad was purchased in 2012, and throughout its nine years with me, it has been the source of countless hours of information, education and entertainment. It has also been an indispensable work tool in the development and maintenance of the blog that you are reading now.

With my iPad, I’ve sent hundreds of emails, listened to hours of music and read several books. I’ve binge watched shows on it when I wasn’t feeling well. I’ve passed time with it in airports (long before Covid-19 came along).

To me, the iPad was probably one of the best inventions ever, combining so many devices in one, enabling me to travel lighter, especially when I commuted to work by bus. My bad back appreciated this device many times over.

You would think that I could accept that a nine year run with any technological tool is an amazing feat these days, but there is a bit of a stubborn streak within me that just couldn’t bring myself to make that admission. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under 50+, pop culture

50 Things I Did Not Miss During the Pandemic

There is no doubt that the pandemic meant huge adjustments for everyone. Everything we do was impacted in one way or another, whether that meant work, school, hobbies, shopping, cooking or cleaning.

Seeing friends and loved ones face-to-face became a risky activity. As a result, our celebrations and traditions either changed or got deferred.

Throughout the pandemic, there was a tragic loss of life and businesses suffered tragic losses as well.

While I think everyone could come up with a long list of the things that they missed during the pandemic, there might be a bit of a bright side when thinking of the things we did not miss, during the stay-at-home advisories.

Here are my top 50:

1. Commuting;
2. Driving in snow;
3. Driving in rain;
4. Driving in freezing rain;
5. The fear of driving in freezing rain;
6. Driving around potholes;
7. Driving around random road construction;
8. Driving in peak construction season when it seems that every east-west artery is under some form of road repair;
9. Navigating through traffic jams;
10. The fear of having the car break down unexpectedly and becoming the cause a traffic jam;
11. Navigating through poor road conditions when the plow hasn’t cleared the snow yet;
12. Navigating through poor road conditions even though the plow “cleared the snow”;
13. Navigating around car accidents;
14. Navigating around bad drivers;
15. Spotting a driver with their eyes on their cell phone rather than the road; Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Humour, Lists, pop culture

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 50+, books, Humour, pop culture

The Reluctant Admission that I Enjoy Large Print

Through the year of Covid-19 isolation and our move to the country, punctuated by a never ending to-do list of home improvements, time was in short supply and I felt bad that I hadn’t reached out more often to check in on friends and family.

Last Christmas, I decided to resume my usual habit of sending out Christmas cards, despite a couple of years of tapering, given that the popularity of sending cards seemed to be on the decline overall. I couldn’t think of a better year to send Christmas cards, at least to mitigate my guilt.

But in doing so came the realization of the less-than-organized state of my contacts list. Somehow, different devices had different lists and sometimes had different or outdated information. It was time for a clean-up.

As much as it might be considered prehistoric by today’s standards, I missed the days of having all that in a neat and tidy address book… a paper one.

This is not to say that I think that electronic contacts are bad, I just find them to be more work to keep up to date.

I don’t know why the software seems to want to create a contact every time I send a once-in-a-lifetime email to a company, and then I can never seem to get rid of it. But when I change a friend’s contact info, it doesn’t seem to sync automatically to the other devices. I don’t get it.

But try finding a paper address book today. Where we used to find them pretty much everywhere and at a variety of price points, today it seems to be something reserved for book, stationery and office supply stores. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under 50+, Humour, pop culture

The Hand Sanitizer Auditions

Is it just me or will 2020 be remembered as the year of the hand sanitizer auditions?

When the pandemic first hit, we were told by health care experts to wash our hands frequently and when running water wasn’t available, to use hand sanitizer containing at least 70% alcohol.

Up until that point, the only time I really used hand sanitizer was when I traveled. With the expert advice in mind, in preparation for the rare, socially-distanced trips outside of the home for food and emergency supplies, I rummaged through my suitcases, my carry-on and my toiletry bag to see what I had on hand. Fortunately, I had a few tiny bottles of Purell left over.

A few weeks prior, I had developed a little cold from the stress and the whirlwind of activity surrounding the house purchase, so I had acquired two tiny bottles of a pharmacy’s home brand which were also added to my stock.

As I started packing for the move, I stumbled upon a few more expired ones that were hiding in the back of my linen closet.

I thought that I had a respectable stock with which I’d be OK for a while, given the sudden scarcity of hand sanitizer, as reported by the news media that seemed to be in Covid-19 hysteria, cramming in as much bad news as they could squeeze into an hour.

Nonetheless, I would keep my eye out for some more, just in case.

Keep in mind that this was all new to everyone. I was actually surprised to see hand sanitizing stations popping up all over the place, something that we now consider normal. That being the case, going into an establishment, I could use their hand sanitizer but when I got back to the car, I could use mine. That measure seemed fair and would help stretch out my private stock.

What a wonderful stroke of innovation and ingenuity it was for the companies who succeeded in pivoting away from their traditional business lines and starting to develop their own hand sanitizers. Suddenly, new brands started lining store shelves everywhere.

Between the new offerings and the sanitizing stations appearing in all establishments, there was no shortage of products to try. That was when I realized that not all hand sanitizers were created equally.

At one hardware store, I recall using a sanitizer that took a ridiculously long time to evaporate, despite my shaking my hands and waving my arms up and down as if I was preparing to take flight. I had practically completed my shopping and was headed to the checkout counter by the time that my hands felt completely dry again.

At one store, I recall a sanitizer so goopy and sticky, I appreciated the paper towels that were left out to wipe off the sticky residue, only to find the paper towels sticking to my hands and not letting go.

At another store, my hands were left so slippery after the sanitizer, the items that I wanted to purchase kept slipping out of my hands and dropping to the floor.

In both of these cases, I was sure that the folks behind the security cameras must have been having fun watching these scenes as if it was an episode of “America’s Funniest Videos”.

When I use hand sanitizer, I accept that it should smell like alcohol. When it evaporates, the smell should dissipate. Does it really need scented additives? There was a particularly strong one that I recall that on the drive home, in the enclosed space of my little car, it started giving me a headache, a sore throat and a runny nose. When I coughed, that was when I noticed the irony in how these precautions were intended to protect from the illness and these very symptoms. I recovered the moment that I got out of the car.

And then there was another strongly scented one that, despite my repeated hand washings during the day, by the time that I turned in for the night, I could still smell it on my hands.
I discovered one brand that had a very bizarre effect, leaving a gritty texture in my hands like I had just played in a sandbox, or just scooped my cat’s litter box. How does that even happen with a substance that is 70% alcohol? What is in the remaining 30%?

And I know this is a common occurrence: hand sanitizer has such a drying effect, that when going through the produce section, I am often perplexed at my inability to open those plastic produce bags, unable to get a good grip. My previous tendency would have been to lick my fingertips to get some kind of moisture going but that would be an extreme no-no during Covid-19.

To me, the gold standard remains Purell (and I say this without compensation from the company). To me, it isn’t sticky, goopy, nor slippery. It dries instantly, and once the alcohol scent fades, it’s gone. I don’t know if there is a special formulation to it, but to me, it does everything a sanitizer should do, and when I start running out of hand sanitizer, that is the brand I look for first.

It is interesting to me how hand sanitizer went from something I bought occasionally and how a bottle could last me for years, to something I now use on a daily basis.

Even if some formulations are maybe less than ideal, I accept that social distancing, face masks and sanitizing are our best line of defense in flattening the curve until such time as the vaccine has become part of the new normal.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, your likes and shares are most appreciated.
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.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

1 Comment

Filed under Health and Wellness, Humour, pop culture