Category Archives: TV

Did You Miss Any of These Posts? (Spring 2017)


As we shed our heavy coats from winters that seemingly never end, spring is always a busy time. In case you missed them, here is a recap of my spring blog posts:

207. How the Cat Opened My Heart 20170326
The unexpected surprise of how a rescue #cat melted my heart.

208. My Writer’s Uniform 20170402
The styles that will likely inspire my “writer’s uniform” once I am retired and free from corporate dress codes.

209. Fine Tuning the TV Habit 20170409
How my TV watching habits have been changing without a self-inflicted guilt trip.

210. Top 10 Things I Like to Do on a Long Weekend 20170412
A Top 10 list of my most favourite activities over long weekends.

211. My First Writing Competition 20170417
How my next step into the world of writing drew out some unexpected emotions at the eleventh hour.

212. Did Nature Photography Get Me to Enjoy Winter? 20170423
Did my renewed interest in photography nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon to spend more time outside?

213. The Coin Conundrum 20170430
A humourous post dedicated to the shoppers who need to unload their coins at the cash register and the increasing challenges in finding places to unload coins as we move toward a cashless society.

214. Trimming My Cat’s Nails Without Looking Like I Lost A Fight 20170507
Pet care: how I was able to trim a fidgety cat’s nails

215. How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest 20170514
A Canadian’s journey into discovering the annual music competition through the magic of high speed Internet and a faster computer.

216. The Pitfalls of Nature Photography 20170521
The constant need to look up, down, and over one’s shoulder when trying to capture the perfect nature shot.

217. You Know It Was a Good Vacation When… 20170529
A list of the signs indicating it was a good vacation, when you’ve forgotten the intricacies of your day-to-day routine.

218. How the Feline Barricade Saved Me from Myself 20170604
The advantages of getting locked into a couch by a sleeping cat.

219. How I Need the Internet to Go “Off the Grid” 20170611
The irony over my recent discovery of how I need the Internet to disconnect and go off-the-grid.

Please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can 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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Filed under Cats, Humour, photography, Top 10, TV

Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest

The first time I heard about the Eurovision Song Contest was in the late 1970’s when I read an article about my favourite musical group, ABBA. The article credited ABBA’s meteoric rise to international stardom to the Eurovision Song Contest and their 1974 win with the song “Waterloo”.

For this young Canadian, even though I had no idea what Eurovision was, it sounded like a big event! I knew just enough about world geography to know that if a music competition involved a whole continent, it must have been something special.

In the years that followed, and the many hours spent listening to MuchMusic, Eurovision came up a few times, whether in the “Rock News” reports or when the VJ’s (“Video Jockeys”) were presenting a video and providing some background into the song and the artist. I remained intrigued.

In 2002, I was finding myself a little bored with mainstream radio here in North America and found myself searching for other musical options. At the same time, I had changed cable packages and was introduced to “BPM TV”, a new music video channel focused on dance tunes from around the globe.

Over the course of BPM’s programming, I was introduced to the Swedish pop band Alcazar. With their very catchy pop-dance tunes, bright upbeat tempo, and amazing sense of style, glamour and showmanship, they quickly became my favourite band! They still are today!

In the process of getting to know Alcazar better through online research, the theme of Eurovision popped up again. Alcazar competed in 2003 with a song called “Not a Sinner nor a Saint”, in a competition called Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national competition to pick a song to represent the country at Eurovision. This was where the journey began! Continue reading

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Filed under Inspiring, Misc blogs, Travel, TV

Fine Tuning the TV Habit

When I wrote the blog post “Deleting without Watching – The Madness and the Guilt” a little over a year ago, little did I know that I was on the cusp of a serious change when it came to my TV habits.

In that blog post, I shared the guilt I felt in deleting programs my PVR had recorded but that I did not even watch. Scandalous… I know!

But in doing so, I was (sort of) following traditional rules of de-cluttering: if it’s been sitting there for a certain length of time and I haven’t watched it, will I ever get back to it? When I was really honest with myself, the answer was pretty clear.

When the new shows rolled out in the fall months of 2016, I gave several programs a chance, but I was getting a little more ruthless in my programming choices. I set a boundary: if after 2-3 episodes I wasn’t really loving the show, why was I still watching? Sadly, only a few survived and remain on my list today. Funny enough, “Designated Survivor” is one of them. (Is art imitating my TV life?)

I hate to admit that using that same rationale, even some shows I enjoyed in recent years have dropped off my must-see list. What happened to the kid who used to push up the national average for TV watching?

You could say that without really thinking about it, I wasn’t watching TV out of habit anymore, I was watching TV with more of a purpose.

Once the bar was raised, the available space on my PVR started increasing… and increasing. And in doing so, not only had I freed up space on my PVR, but time was freeing up in my life as well for things that mattered more. It was a seismic shift. Continue reading

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Top 10 Plans for My Retirement “Gap Year”

do-not-disturb-sign2If you have read some of my previous posts on the theme of retirement, you probably know that writing has already been carved in stone for my second career. Let’s face it, with fifty years of journaling behind me as well as enough ideas on pieces of scrap paper to wallpaper the CN Tower, I don’t think I will be running out of writing projects until the next millennium.

Watching the clock count down toward retirement is a mixed blessing. On one hand, I love my job and am concerned at how quickly the countdown is going. Will I have enough time to complete the work projects that are important to me, before I decide to hand in my security pass? On the other hand, the to-do list of personal projects I want to pursue is already starting to form in my mind and seems to grow longer with every passing month.

But just the same, there is that transition period between the two, where I plan on just taking it easy and leaving behind the old routine and making way for the new one.

I have worked very hard and I deserve the break. If high schoolers can have a “gap year”, why can’t retirees?

Here they are, my top 10 plans for my retirement gap year:

10 – Actually getting spring cleaning done during spring

In rushing around from week to week, between chores, gluten-free meal preparation and getting the regular housework done, I often find that my “spring cleaning” actually takes four seasons to get everything done, even with a good system of lists to keep me on track. I am hoping that by having more time to myself, the spring cleaning will eventually get contained to one season.

9 – Clear out my Netflix list

When I watch a program on Netflix and have the satisfaction of deleting it from “My List”, I am frequently tempted to check out the “Recently Added” section… and when I do, I usually end up adding three to five new items to “My List”. With almost 100 titles set aside for a rainy day, I am very much looking forward to a binge watching month.

8 – Catch up on all the movies I missed over the last decade

In addition to the programming offered on Netflix, I assume that there will be another list of movies I just didn’t have enough time to get around to seeing. My popcorn popper may have a hard time keeping up that year!

7 – Re-watch some of my favourite classic TV series

As if the programming in #8 and #9 aren’t enough, there will be favourite series on DVD or Blu-Ray that I will be overdue for watching again, as I tend to do from time to time. I may need to see all 14 seasons of Dallas again… just sayin’ Continue reading

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Where Have All The Exercise Shows Gone?

20MW AlbumNot that long ago exercise shows were a staple of daytime TV. At any time of the day (sometimes evenings too), there always seemed to be an exercise show of some kind on one of the channels… and this was long before having 200 to 300 channels to choose from.

I admit that I was a disciple of those shows. It seemed that my VCR or my DVD recorder was always set to record some exercise show that matched my fitness goals at the time. To me, it was important to maintain a healthy shape, because I did not want a repeat performance of my “husky years”.

Among my favourites were “The Body Electric” (PBS), “Caribbean Workout” (The Sports Network), “Rendez-Vous Reebok” (Réseau des sports) and of course the classic that ran in syndication for many years, “The 20 Minute Workout”. I also enjoyed “Kiana’a Flex Appeal” and “Bodyshaping”, ESPN programs that aired on Canada’s TSN, which coached me in how to use gym equipment safely.

More recently, my local community TV channel has been airing a series I love called “Yoga for Runners”, an outstanding program that inspired my stretching routines before, during and after my training for my first half-marathon. I still do those stretches today.

Throughout my years of TV exercise shows, I have learned about muscle groups, exercise physiology, and proper nutrition while in training. I also learned to listen to my body and how to perform exercises correctly. The educational component of TV exercise shows cannot be denied.

TV exercise shows were always great tool, in my opinion, for juggling a busy professional life too. It was just me, the instructor(s), a few basic pieces of exercise equipment (free weights, mat, bands, step), in my living room, on my schedule.

Once I started learning the routines and actually feeling the positive effects through confidence, better quality sleep, better muscle tone and a higher metabolic rate, I would become very loyal, very quickly to the program that got me there. Also, the more fun the show and the instructors were, the longer I stuck with the program. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring, Running, TV

My Take-Aways from Awards Season

Oscar and me1Ever since I knew I wanted to become a writer, whenever I watched The Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, The Emmy Awards (Prime Time and Daytime) or the Tony Awards, I always found myself walking away feeling inspired that one day that could be me.

When I hear writers’ acceptance speeches of humble beginnings, late starts in life or how a unique little story or unique way of telling a story became the object of much attention, I really do feel validated that there is purpose and potential for a budding writer like myself.

I do not delude myself into thinking that my turn WILL come at the awards podium, I think the odds of that are equivalent to winning the lottery. But I would like to think that my imagination, my creativity, my ideas and my story telling style combined with consistency and persistence, are the foundation for writing stories that will resonate. Where it goes from there, nobody knows. Hope for the best, expect the worst, and hopefully land somewhere in the middle.

This year in particular, the word “diversity” has been a recurring theme, appearing in speeches, editorials and reviews which struck a particularly deep chord with me.

As writers, I think we all have an innate fear, “What if no one is interested. What if no one reads it.” If the appetite for diversity is as strong as it seems to be, I take that as my cue and as my challenge to dig deeply for the stories that can matter and that can resonate.

The appetite for diversity is a sign to me that people want to see themselves in a story, someone to relate to, someone who has felt Continue reading

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Filed under Inspiring, Theatre, TV, Writing