Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Another fresh new year is here . . .

Another year to live!

To banish worry, doubt, and fear,

To love and laugh and give!

W.A. Ward

2008 was a fantastic year for me, starting with four fabulous months living in Denmark, enjoying every minute of it; including making new friends from around the world, watching the Danish Royal ballet with the Danish Queen and walking along the canal in beautiful downtown Copenhagen Sunday mornings. I also graduated with my Masters in Business Administration (MBA), attended and enjoyed my cousin's and close friends (S, S, & J's) weddings, and had a fun-filled girl's weekend in New York City, getting to see Daniel Radcliffe live on Broadway. After more than 15 years, my favorite band, New Kids on the Block, reunited and I went with my childhood friends to the reunion concert, screaming like 12-year-olds. Finally, I volunteered for and lived through American history, seeing the first black man elected President of the United States of America. 2008 was indeed a GREAT year!

Happy New Year and Blessings for 2009

- Virginia Gal

Monday, December 29, 2008

Six Things About Me

I saw this on Mommantor's blog and liked it, so I've "borrowed" for my own (hope you don't mind Mommantor). Feel free to "lend" it to yourself as well (insert laugh track).

Six things about Virginia Gal:
  1. I just read my first Christian romance book (it was purely by accident, I started to get into the story before all the fundamentalist stuff started rolling and I did want to see the two main characters get together). The book was ok but I could have down without all the religious right influence, now I will be more careful in selecting my romance novels.
  2. Went to see Doubt yesterday, such a good movie! Amy Adams is an amazing actress, she must win the Golden Globe.
  3. I could watch live (good) ballet every day of the week.
  4. I have a soft spot in my heart for little old men who look like my grandfather and my dad and at the two stores I work at, I will often give little old men additional discounts or extra food samples, simply because they remind me of my grandfather (nana) or dad.
  5. I think Barack Obama is a hottie; these are four years of State of the Union addresses I'll be watching, yowzeers!
  6. I don't speak urdu nearly as well I wish I could - biggest regret of my life.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nora Roberts

Recently I finished my first set of Nora Roberts books. It was recommended to me by a friend who knew I was feeling sad since the Twilight series has finished. I wanted to read something in a similar genre, romance but with vampires but not to sci-fi or fantasy.

I'll be honest, I had been avoiding Nora Roberts because I wasn't altogether convinced about her, she seems very mass-market. This series did nothing to really alter my opinion. She is not a bad writer but just nothing that really presses me to rush out and get her next novel.

She would be a good filler if I have nothing else to read or maybe laying on the beach, but certainly not the first author I would gravitate too. My problem with this particular series (and what I suspect with her other books) is that she starts with a good premise but there is no real fleshing out of the story, the romance seems too hurried and onerous details inserted where the reader can't care.

This is like the third mass market writer whose books seem to always be on the best seller list but whom I've found bland or unimaginative, formulaic or just plain vomit inducing, such as Nicholas Sparks, Clive Cussler and Diana Gabaldon).

As for vampire stories and romance go - there are some books I love and recommend:
1. The Twilight Series (yes it is for teenagers and some parts very syrupy but the writing is good, the story enrapturing and I love it!).

2. The Vampire Diaries (another for teenagers but divided in four books, it is riveting as you follow the characters through each story).

3. Dracula (nobody does it as well as the original, Bram Stoker's classic still gives me chills when I read it).

4. The Historian (by Elizabeth Kostova, this book is a page turner filled with vampire lore, though be forewarned the ending is a bit abrupt and disappointing).

5. The Rest Falls Away (this is a new series combining regency romance and vampires, I've just started and am addicted, thanks to Darla D for getting me hooked to it).

Hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sorry - Being AWOL

Sorry for the lack of posting and checking everyone's blog, I've been AWOL of late because during this holiday season, employed in two retail jobs means that I am a slave to both stores and working 12 to 15 hour days, every day, meaning whatever free time I have is spent catching up on sleep.

Some thoughts I've been having lately:

  • How wide a discrepancy in the weather of the USA, up North all major snowstorms but down here in Northern Virginia, just some mild rain. I didn't even know for the first two days of the major snowstorms until a friend wrote me, crazy, eh??
  • Hey just because a store carried something last year, doesn't mean they will carry it again next year, so don't tell me, "but you had it last year." If you don't see it on the shelves, we don't got it, capise!
  • why are people extra rude to store clerks during the holiday season? For God's sake Christmas is NOT about materialism!! And I'm more likely to go out of my way and help you when you are not a jerk to me!
  • Two retail jobs during the holiday season means I've had to miss three dinner get togethers, numerous friends phone calls and more than one family outing this Christmas period. Sigh.
  • Why does Hollywood try to make us like Nazi's, even ones who tried to blow up Hitler? This new Tom Cruise film has me intrigued, I want to see it, but don't like the idea of sympathizing with a Nazi, cause no matter what they did, a high ranking Nazi officer bought into the party line and in this case, the Nazi party line was horrific.
  • My little 9-year old cousin in India has finally gotten an internet connection at home, I can't wait to start emailing her!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fave Photo Monday

I know its not Fave Photo Friday but I don't feel like writing a lot at this moment so thought I would post a picture or two I enjoy, a brief respite, if you will, from my daily grind, including mental usage. Hope you like them as well!

1. London, Parliament building, taken from the opposite side of the Thames by a good friend of mine. It is also my wallpaper.

2. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada's number one ice dancing couple, also my favorite ice dancing pair! I love to watch them ice skate because they are so lyrical, so effortless, made for each other.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Virginia Gal's Bah Humbug Moment

I'm prefacing this post with a disclaimer, if you are all about the holiday spirit, elfish felicity and gingerbread goodness, this post is probably not going to be for you.

I was listening on the radio, NPR, about how the Salvation Army was saying that their donations were down and they, the Salvation Army, would not be able to give as many presents this year as in the past. Hearing this, I didn't feel one ounce of pang. Does this make me a bad person? Maybe. I am sorry but there are kids in the world who have literally (hope I'm using that word right Darla D), no food to eat, let alone imagining having a toy!

Presents, presents, I am sorry you're not getting a Barbie or Transformer this year, or some stuffed toy that you'll play with for a few months and than get bored with and discard, wanting whatever is the latest and greatest toy out there, but what the heck, you will live!....meanwhile all over this world, including in America, there are children with not enough food, clothes, heck even heat in the house, perhaps that is a better present????

Maybe this makes me a Scrooge, but Angel Tree's and such are just a way to appease shoppers of their obscene materialism in this period. Buy a "poor kid" some toy and than you can feel better about spending hundreds of dollars on electronics, clothes, toys, and the like. I know, I know, kindness and comfort can come in the form of a gift, a token, but wouldn't that money be better used for the well-being of the child or children around the world?

Maybe its my cash-strapped situation, which has me currently living paycheck to paycheck, maybe its my anger at this government (Treasury Department) that gave those greedy already filthy rich investment bankers $75 billion but still insists I pay back my student loans (trust me a drop in the hat compared to $75 billion), but I just am upset at these Christmas gift charity things, where does it end?! Well I guess since we gave charity to the auto industry, there really is no end, perhaps we should set up charities for everything we want, early bird dinners for Florida senior citizens, spa treatments for Park Ave. ladies, ponies for lobbyists on K street....

Urgh - Christmas gifts are not necessary, they are not even a part of Christmas, just invented by our materialistic society! You will live without getting a Christmas present, yes you might feel bad since our culture has drummed it into our heads that Christmas is all about Santa and waking up on December 25th to a beautifully decorated tree that shelters underneath its delightful branches, reams and reams of artfully decorated gifts, but you will still live. If you have money to get gifts, than fine, but charity to get a gift, is that really necessary?? Instead what is necessary is food, water, shelter, clothes, health care, heck a good education, that is a good charity!

This is my Virginia Gal bah humbug moment.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Winner - National Board of Review, best film 2008
Winner - Toronto International Film Festival, people's choice 2008
Winner - British Independent Films, best independent film 2008

If you haven't already seen the trailer for the breakout film of 2008, Slumdog Millionaire, you are must watch it now. A touching and heartbreaking movie, I went to see Slumdog Millionaire this past Saturday. Considered a potential Oscar pick, I was a bit skeptical about it yet as soon the film began rolling, the magic of the movie encased me. I won't write much about the story, it is better to see it without any spoilers. I will add this, it definitely has elements of Bollywood; it is the genius of Hollywood storytelling with the vivaciousness/color of India.

Also it was special for me because the moments of Urdu language were comforting as were the gorgeous shots of India and intimacies of scenes that I have either lived or seen when visiting India (i.e. waiting on the train platform). Note the game show host is a very famous Bollywood actor and the music director/composer A.R. Rahman is hugely renowned in India.

Check this film out!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christmas Songs

I know my blog postings have been overly somber of late hence I thought to lighten the mood with some....Christmas music (stop your caterwauling, you know its still early in the season and you love it at the moment! Of course check back December 24th when you are ready to strangle anyone who even dares to hum a Christmas tune).

Here are my favorite songs of the winter holiday period -

Carol of the Bells (sung by the Celtic Women)

All I Want for Christmas Is You (from Love Actually)

Sugarplum Fairy or Nutcracker Suite (Duchy Ballet)

Those are my top three songs that embody and light up the holiday for me. but I also like:
1. Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt)
2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)
3. Do They Know Its Christmas Time at All (Band-Aid)
4. This One's For the Children (New Kids on the Block)
5. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (N'Sync)
6. Hark the Heralds, Angels Sing
7. Last Christmas (Wham)

Please let me know which ones are your favorites.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

AIDS documentary

The First of December is World AIDS day. It has been 27 years since the CDC first recognized this deadly virus. Since than AIDS has grown worldwide to now affecting over 30 million people around the globe, including a quarter million children.

To my embarrassment the only reason I remembered today was World AIDS day was because of an offer sent to my facebook account from Starbucks, in which the coffee giant would donate a dollar for every type of specialty drink sold (due to my lack of funds I was unable to increase Starbucks profit margins sans the one dollar).

Than this evening as I was flipping through the television, I came upon a documentary on the Sundance channel about the AIDS epidemic in Malawi. Entitled I Am Because We Are and made by Madonna, the film had me hooked because of the subject matter. I watched as they showed how this disease has and continues to ravage the landlocked African country. According to the documentary, AIDS has thrived in Malawi because of the poverty, ignorance, witchcraft religion, tribal laws and social stigma that make up the culture of Malawi.

What absolutely broke my heart was the AIDS orphans that they featured in the film. Children from two to 15, left with no one, trying to care for themselves, sometimes getting help, sometimes not. Most often also being diagnosied with the disease after having to watch their parents die painfully from AIDS. Suddenly sitting in my large, plush carpeted, temperature controlled bedroom, I felt very very priviledged. With all that had happened to them, the children, the AIDS orphans, still smiled, yet I felt so sad. I wanted to gather them all up and give them hugs.

I can't even imagine living without my mom and dad. Who will comfort these orphans when they fall? Who will give them hugs just because they are so loved? Who will anchor them, support them, raise them up? Who will worry when they are sick, when they are hungry, when they are cold? Who will cheer with them when they are happy? Even writing this makes me tear up and want to hold my parents super close and never let them go.

While I can't adopt all of those children, I can bring awareness to the plight of Malawi and those two million AIDS orphaned children. As the documentary website points out, this is about, "the kind of consciousness shift required to save this beautiful and resilient population."

Here is the link to the documentary - http://www.raisingmalawi.org/blog_120108.php
The film will be airing on the Sundance channel again on December 6th and December 9th at 10am and December 17th at 2:50pm; if you have the channel I highly recommend watching I Am Because We Are.

The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988 and I hope through this post, I have focused attention, albeit very little, on this global epidemic.