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Idol Chatter

Mitch Albom’s Super Plan To Aid the Homeless

posted by kris rasmussen

It’s not only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks who have a lot riding on Sunday’s Super Bowl. The entire city of Detroit, a city that has been trying for years to recover from economic recession and urban flight, is looking to Super Bowl XL and the deluge of visitors it is bringing to town for an economic boost. But what you won’t see on Sunday’s telecast amidst the shots of the cheering crowds and the lavish halftime show –not to mention the football game that takes place amidst all this–are the thousands of homeless people within five minutes or less of Ford Field. So I am truly thankful we have people like columnist and author Mitch Albom to remind us that they are still there, and that in the midst of the glitzy excess of one of of the biggest sports events of the year, we can all take time out to help them.

On the cover of yesterday’s Detroit Free Press Albom recounted his recent visit to the Detroit Rescue Mission as a means of advertising a new fund that has been started entitled S.A.Y. Detroit. (S.A.Y stands for Super All Year). By donating to this fund, visitors and locals such as myself–and even those of you watching the game at home–can help raise the financial resources to significantly increase services to the city’s homeless population.

There’s a new Super Bowl tradition that would make Albom’s now-famous mentor, Morrie, proud.

If Anthony Hopkins Can Do It, So Can You

Things been slow for you lately? Try picking up the pace with “The World’s Fastest Indian,” a new Anthony Hopkins film.

The movie explores the journey of a New Zealand man, Burt Munro, who dreams of making his classic Indian motorcycle the fastest bike on earth. Munro devotes his life to perfecting his motorcycle by hand. He spends day and night in his little shed in Invercargill, New Zealand, melting metal and improving the parts. To test the speed, he rides his Indian on the sand at a beach close to his home. But his dream is to race it on the salt flats of Bonneville, Utah, where men and their machines convene to compete each year.

When the reality of Munro’s mortality hits him–he is diagnosed with angina and has a weak prostate–he decides he must live out his life’s dream. No one believes in him except his confidant, a young boy who lives next door, who tells Munro that everyone doubts he will break the record speed. But Munro is not dissuaded.

Though he is old and poor, he secures the funds to go to America to prove his motorcycle the fastest in the world. And even when all odds are against him–including plenty of finger-nail-biting setbacks–Munro manages to bed two older blonde ladies, make friends with a cross-dresser, and reach his destination: Bonneville, Utah. The only problem: he forgot to register for the race and is told he can’t participate. Once again, this does not get him down and he attempts to charm the authorities with wit and a reckless disregard for the rules.

Though a happy-go-lucky film with no real villains, “The Fastest Indian” exists to engage and inspire audience members to pursue their wildest dreams. Expect to leave the theater on an emotional “go-get-’em” high.

Writer/director, Roger Donaldson was obsessed with Munro’s story for years before he made it into a classic tale of hope, perseverance, and adventure. I had the chance to speak with him and Hopkins when they came to promote the film in Manhattan.

To echo a prevailing theme in the film, I asked Donaldson, who hails from Australia, what his biggest challenge was in life. It was, he said, when he was fired from his job as a paperboy. It seems he had a knack for breaking milk bottles with his newspapers.

“I was completely incensed when I got fired from this job and I was determined I would never ever work for anybody who could ever fire me again,” Donaldson said. “And that’s pretty much how I’ve run my life is to be sort of you know live by my sort of own wits and be sort of running the ship I guess.”

Because of “Indian’s” inspirational message, I asked Hopkins what inspires him in his life and work. His answer? Music.

“In retrospect I wanted to be a musician to escape from what I thought was my limitation in life because I wasn’t a good student,” Hopkins said.

He always played the piano and recently became friends with a composer who helped him learn electric orchestration on the computer. His first composed piece will be performed in San Antonio in May.

Until then, whether or not motorcycles are your thing, “The World’s Fastest Indian” begs us to face our challenges with the speed and precision of Munro’s bike and to never give up on our dreams.

A Goddess Good Enough to Eat? Or… Not?

posted by donna freitas

I often write about chocolate in relation to, well, anything spiritual, religious, or divine–anything that I can find to justify my oh-so-out-of-control addiction to this confectionary delight. In my most recent book, “Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise: Spirituality for the Bridget Jones in All of Us,” I not only paid homage to the milk and dark varieties, but followed up these sugar-induced reflections by interviewing Katrina Markoff in an article called “The Sweet Spirit” for Beliefnet. Katrina is executive chef of Vosges Haut-Chocolat and runs a Yoga and Chocolate Retreat in Mexico each year, as well as a series of Yoga and Chocolate Worskshops. I discovered via my “research” for the Goddess book (as chocolate research is v. v. important); she has quite a develeped sensibility about the relationship between chocolate and the spiritual life. What more could a girl ask for?

Sigh.

Well, as a result of my more public prose about chocolate and all its derivations, sometimes people decide to send me things. You know, in the form of chocolate. Which, I must admit, I do not protest in the least bit.

Most recently, I received a delightful present from a company called “Chocolate Deities” in the form of Sheela Na Gig, portrayed on the face of a large, solid chocolate disk. Sheela Na Gig is a Goddess who apparently “appeared on Irish churches before the 16th century, reminding those with the ability to see that entering a sacred space is to enter the Womb of the Goddess.” The little booklet accompanying my edible divinity proclaims wonderment about her: “Goddess, Grotesque, or Otherworldly Power? A Protectress, a Hussy, a carefully concealed Saint? She is brassy…she is gatekeeper…she is a spirit that commands our attention…”–and she’s yours to eat too!

Well, command my attention she did–immediately. Eagerly opening the box that contained Sheela Na Gig in edible form, I was stunned by the way she, well, is quite brassy and commanding of the attention, and how, quite literally and visibly in chocolate form, she shows how to enter that “sacred space” that is also the “Womb of the Goddess” if you know what I mean. Just go check out the picture and see for your self; it’s not quite appropriate to print on a family website such as ours.

So, um, well, as I sit here glancing now and again at my chocolate Sheela Na Gig divinity, and then averting my eyes–in what I can only describe as… modesty?–I ponder whether or not I will ever be able to actually enjoy what I can only imagine is the fabulous chocolate that forms her current state of being in my apartment.

Regardless of the edibility factor, a chocolate deity makes quite the interesting gift for the spiritually reflective girl with the unquenchable chocolate thirst, even if she doesn’t actually ever eat the divine offering. She will perhaps just have to adorn my kitchen counter (albeit enclosed in the box) rather than my stomach.

Will and Dis-Grace-ful?

posted by

On an upcoming episode of “Will and Grace,” Jack’s “OutTV” network is bought by a Christian TV network… great idea. Casting Britney Spears as a conservative Christian who hosts a cooking segment on the new network… another great idea. Calling said cooking show “Cruci-fixin’s” and airing the episode on April 13th, the day before Good Friday–the day Christians believe that Jesus was crucified–not such a great idea. Perhaps the network, which just abandoned “The Book of Daniel,” an ill-fated attempt to attract people of faith, should have checked its calendar before scheduling this one.

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