Monday, January 31, 2011

Enjoyed Country Strong

I'm glad that I don't listen to the critics.

I liked Country Strong and enjoyed listening to all the songs. The performances were amazing, especially those of the younger stars, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester. I was disappointed that Tim McGraw, the only real country music singer in the film, did not sing a single note.

The storyline resembled that of many other movies depicting successful artists who struggle with addictions and the ensuing relationship problems. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the role of a six-time Grammy winner who has a drinking problem and leaves the rehab facility a few months too early. The story starts off as a love triangle and gradually evolves into a love rectangle involving the four main characters.

The ending is unique.

Watch the trailer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All About Blogs

I enjoyed yesterday morning's session with Hilary Abel. It was definitely worth the drive to the Forest Heights Library at the west end of Kitchener. I arrived a few minutes late and found a room full of active adults (aged 50+) listening attentively to an attractive, dynamic young woman.

We were all at different stages of blogging. Some had never even seen a blog while others manage a few blogs. Although I fall into the later category, there are still a few gaping holes in my blog education.

Some of Hilary's suggestions...
  • In your bio, tell people why you are blogging.
  • Add personality to your blog.
  • Whenever possible, add pictures.
  • Link to other blogs, restaurants, movies...
  • Read other people's blogs and leave comments. She suggested we visit To My Wife and How to Furnish a Room.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The King's Speech

This is definitely one of the year's best movies. It is an inspiring look at a slice of recent British history.

Colin Firth delivers an extraordinary performance as the second son of King George V. After his older, more outgoing brother abdicates, he becomes England's wartime king. With the help of a speech therapist brilliantly  played by Geoffrey Rush, Albert (King George VI) overcomes a stuttering problem and delivers an unforgettable 9-minute speech.

The film traces the development of an unlikely friendship between two men from different social classes and countries.

Watch the trailer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Meeting with Aspiring Writers

I enjoyed Wednesday evening's workshop with Sarah Totton.

It is inspiring to listen to a published author describe her own journey and provide valuable tips for her listeners. To date, she has sold 30 short stories.  Although she is a fantasy writer, many of her suggestions apply to all genres.

On Wednesday, she focused on the title and first paragraph of a short story.

Some of her comments...
  • Titles set the tone of the story. They can refer to the character, setting or central message of the story.
  • Start with a working title if you can't think of a good title.
  • Carry a notebook with you to record possible titles for future short stories.
  • The first real line of any story is the title.
  • Use the first paragraph to grab the editor's attention. Do not start with the character waking up, a description of the weather or the back story (information about the character, history and situation that occurred before the beginning of the story).
  • Imply, do not include, the back story.
  • You can't write the beginning of a story properly until you have written the ending.
  • Read outside your normal genre for inspiration.
  • Other sources of inspiration include drama, reality, books, movies, memories and hobbies.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inspired by Karen Armstrong

This afternoon, I listened to Karen Armstrong speak at St. George's Anglican Church in downtown Guelph.

Ms Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions. I have read The Spiral Staircase, a memoir about her spiritual awakening after she left the convent.

I am looking forward to reading her latest book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. In it, Armstrong provides realistic, practical and creative ideas that can help us translate the golden rule into our daily lives and capitalistic society.

She spoke very eloquently about the need to build a global community where all of us can coexist harmoniously. She believes that compassion is risky, but maintaining the status quo is even riskier.

Some of her comments...
  • The major religions gloss on the golden rule.
  • The Charter of Compassion must contain an admission that the major religions have failed.
  • Do not go into dialogue unless you are prepared to be changed by it.
  • Even our enemies have pain.
  • The great sages of society--Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King--worked in violent societies.
  • Businessmen want peace...compassion is profitable.
  • Acknowledge your own dark side before you try to deal with the dark side of others.
  • We blame others for what we dislike in ourselves.
  • Deal with your vulnerability as mature adults, not loud, squalling children.
  • If you turn your back on suffering, it will come back to you in a distorted form.
  • Visit your shadow and realize what you are capable of.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Revisiting Yoga

In 2009, I decided to take up yoga. I took advantage of a summer special offered at Living Yoga and Health in downtown Guelph.

I was hooked after the first class. I decided to make it my "fitness" project for the year. I attended three to four sessions a week and managed to lose ten pounds in the process. Unfortunately, my interest fizzled out last summer and I attended classes very sporadically throughout the fall.

Tonight, I went back to Living Yoga and started anew with Amy's Yoga and Meditation class. I feel so calm and centered.

It has been said that some do yoga for fun, some for exercise, and others to help conquer personal battles. In my case, ditto for all three!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Viral Voice of Second Chances

I have been inspired by Ted Williams, the roadside panhandler who has become an online sensation.

The 53-year old father of nine is a former radio announcer who succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction. After losing his job and family, he ended up on the streets.

Earlier this week, he was videotaped by a passing driver on the I-71. Williams was carrying a sign promoting his "God-given gift of voice." The video has gone viral and over 5 million viewers have logged on.

He has received many job offers and has cleaned up his act.

Watch the video on You Tube.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Tourist

Filmed in Venice, The Tourist is a romantic thriller that pairs two of Hollywood's megastars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp plays the part of a widowed Wisconsin math teacher, Frank Tupelo who meets Elise Clifton Ward (Angelina Jolie) a beautiful Englishwoman who is being pursued by Scotland Yard. After receiving a secret note, Jolie takes a train from Paris to Venice, picks up Depp and tries to fool her pursuers in thinking that he is her lover Alexander Pearce.

I enjoyed the humor, breathtaking scenery and free-wheeling plot. The ending is unexpected and the movie often stumbles between spy thriller, love story and romantic comedy.

Watch the trailer.