Modern philosophy?

philosopherNovember 30, 2015 – Philosophical advice seems to come from everywhere these days.

Cadbury Adams, the makers of Halls, which I’ve been popping since the autumn allergies have kicked in, now wraps their cough drops with inspirational messages that they refer to as a “pep talk in every drop.” Messages like “Keep your chin up”, “You’ve gotten through worse”, “Tough is your middle name”, and “March forward!” adorn each individual cough drop to help keep my attitude positive so I can fight off my allergies. While I find these little messages amusing, the jury is still out on whether this remedy works.

Inspirational messages on consumer products are nothing new. Dove chocolates have been wrapping their sumptuous Promises line in heartfelt messages for years, with gems of wisdom that tout “Temptation is fun … giving in is even better” or “Sometimes a smile can mean more than a dozen roses.” These decadent messages go hand in hand with the chocolate experience, and may even add a little boost to your day.

Similarly, the makers of Snapple communicate to their customers by placing messages on their bottle caps. Of course, you need a good pair of reading glasses to see the fine print on the cap, and Snapple messages tend to gravitate to trivia and interesting facts, rather than philosophy.

Speaking of philosophy, I’ve saved my favorite for last. The brand name Philosophy takes inspirational messages to the next level, and perhaps does the best job of all. If you’re not familiar, Philosophy is a skin care brand that believes in miracles, and names their products accordingly. I use products from their line with names like miracle, grace, hope, purity and joy. Each product comes complete with its own message in a bottle, such as, “When we walk in gratitude for each and every moment, we empower ourselves by empowering our spirits,” or “When it comes to love you need not fall but rather surrender.” A bit mushy perhaps, yet I keep coming back for more.

Are we a generation so starved for inspiration that we’re willing to take it from the consumer products we buy? Or have marketers simply found a smarter way to make us believe we need these products to do whatever it is they promise to do, and to nourish our spirits?

Can’t imagine what Socrates would have thought of that.

You ruined Thanksgiving!

NOT1462884_10151776343336545_119739668_nNovember 26, 2015 – There’s an ongoing joke in my family that if the slightest thing goes wrong anytime on December 25, whether it involves dropping a fork on the floor, bumping into someone’s chair, or having your cell phone ring during dinner, the person responsible is told, “Great, now you ruined Christmas.”

That same message should go out to the retailers across the country regarding Thanksgiving, the very ones who make their employees to work on a day that should be spent with family and friends. Retailers wouldn’t do this if people didn’t shop. This is supposed to be a non-commercial holiday!

If you make it through the turkey and pumpkin pie without leaving the dinner table to shop, I applaud you. It may not be easy since many retailers have done everything in their power to lure you away from the family table (and the Trivial Pursuit tournament that follows dinner in my family) to snag the deals they claim to offer. What prompts people to camp outside of stores, or worse yet, shop on Thanksgiving, is beyond me.

It has been estimated 195 million Americans make Black Friday part of their holiday tradition. Isn’t that enough? The problem is retailers get greedier each year. I haven’t seen a bargain yet that would make me change my mind about shopping on Black Friday let alone Thanksgiving.

It you’re tempted to shop today, think about this. It’s been reported in several publications in recent years (including The Wall Street Journal) that Thanksgiving or Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best time to shop, anyway. The best deals often come deeper in December, especially if holiday sales start to slump.

That is something a retailer is never going to tell you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Do we need a little Christmas?

we-need-a-little-christmasNovember 23, 2015 – Pope Francis shared an opinion last week that may make some of us want to cry into our figgy pudding.

“Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen war and hate,” he said. “Christmas is a charade this year because the whole world is at war.”

Of course, he’s not saying that Christmas is a charade in the religious sense, but rather because we celebrate the season and sing songs about joy and peace. That may seem a bit hypocritical considering the violence of the last few weeks and cries of hatred and racism around our country and the world. No doubt, it is a terrible time in history.

Pope Francis seems like a kind man who speaks from his heart. He earned the title the people’s Pope because he is filled with empathy for every citizen on this planet. Someone who is as sensitive and as caring as he seems could easily believe it is wrong to partake in the season’s festivities. It brings to mind something I think of often, that a mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child. I can relate to that.

Still, tragedy at Christmas isn’t anything new. As long as humans have existed there has been violence, war and tragedy both natural and man-made. Yet, we have always celebrated Christmas because it symbolizes hope. Without sounding too much like a Hallmark movie, we need all the hope we can get, and we need that special feeling only Christmas can bring.

There will always be tragedy and violence in the world because there has never been peace on earth. Call me shallow, but I for one need Christmas to help me believe that some day there will be.

A Charming Start to the Holiday Season

Grand-Illumination-Celebration-Peddlers-Village-680uwNovember 19, 2015 – Thanksgiving may be a week away, but if you live in the Philadelphia/Bucks County area, you can kick off the season tomorrow night at the Grand Illumination Celebration at Peddler’s Village.

The annual lighting event takes place the Friday before Thanksgiving and features more illumination than you can imagine. This year, the lights switch on at 6:15 p.m. and stay lit until 10 p.m. Admission and parking are free, although the crowds can be overwhelming the first night and parking can be hard to find. The good news, Peddler’s Village remains lit through the holidays so you’ll have plenty of time to wallow in its charm.

If you don’t live in the area, make a turkey sandwich and kick-start the season with a great holiday movie. Here are a few Thanksgiving themed favorites:

Pieces of April – A quirky film that stars Katie Holmes fresh from her Dawson’s Creek days, Patricia Clarkston and Oliver Platt. The storyline portrays a family coming together for Thanksgiving dinner despite their many differences. This definitely isn’t a sweet portrayal of the holidays, but rather a realistic view of an urban family at Thanksgiving.

Hannah and Her Sisters – Yes, it’s a little weird to see Woody Allen and Mia Farrow together, but they did make a few good films together. The storyline takes place between two Thanksgiving holidays and focuses on family so it counts as a holiday classic.

Home for the Holidays – Another quirky comedy drama about visiting the family at Thanksgiving. The all-star cast features Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Claire Danes, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott and Ann Bancroft. Jodie Foster directed this film that boldly suggests that all family holidays are something we just have to suffer through.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go… This holiday classic has Charlie Brown serving an untraditional dinner to his friends – and struggling through it as usual – as the true meaning of Thanksgiving comes to light.

Planes Trains and Automobiles –It’s the best Thanksgiving movie of all time! John Candy and Steve Martin star as two men who are forced to travel home together for the holiday. It’s comedy at its finest but it will also tug at your heart strings, too the way good holiday movies always do.

1000 on the Fifth

1000November 10, 2015 – It’s official. It took a little finagling to make this happen, but my 1000th blog post falls on the same day as my fifth anniversary with WordPress.

I started this journey on November 10, 2010 to give me something to focus while I was one of the 10 percent unemployed. Back then, on that chilly November morning, I clicked the publish button to go live, and entered the blogsphere with a personal goal to keep going as long as it was fun.

Over the past five years, I’ve also gathered about 950 followers – which still blows me away – and nearly 150,000 views with 5,000 comments. The most popular post, The Death of Boxerjam, from February 14, 2014, and the follow up, The Reincarnation of Boxerjam, from July 11, 2014, attracted about 150 of those comments, and even lead to a conversation with the owners and programmers of The good news is that they have heard the cries of people who responded and are working hard to create a new series of games that will appeal to the same audience through venues on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Facebook, and the website

With millions of blogs out there, I am amazed that you find me, but when you do and you join in the conversation, it makes it all worthwhile.

Thank you!

Hope and Faith

49-29588_Tin_Plaques_Faith_HopeNovember 7, 2015 – My son and I — an agnostic and a believer respectively — have a recurring conversation regarding the existence of God. It always comes down to faith, which I have, and he does not.

He asks me how I can believe in something with no facts to prove it. As a scientific thinker, he believes it’s an appropriate question, but he questions everything and always has. It’s the way his mind works. My response that I have faith and I don’t have to see something to believe it. That response does not make sense to him.

I told him that since he cannot prove God doesn’t exist, his belief is based on faith, too. That kept him quiet for a few seconds, and then he shot back and said that it isn’t faith that makes him question God’s existence. It’s the opposite. He can’t prove it, yet there is some scientific evidence to back up his beliefs. Faith believes with no proof.

Although I respect his opinion and admire his passion, I still have faith.

Is the word faith always associated with the belief in God or a religion? Surely not, but when he asks me to give him another example where I have faith outside of God that is not based on proof, I rack my brain trying to come up with an answer. I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, and I have faith that he will do the right thing, I say. He explains that the sun rises every morning, so there is evidence to back up the claim. I told him I had faith in him to do the right thing, and he responded that I raised him in a certain way, and I only hope he does the right thing.

The word hypothesis then comes to mind. After all, every great scientist had to have faith at the onset that his or her hypothesis would eventually be substantiated by fact. Again, he says, the scientist merely has hope that it will be proven. After all, some evidence exists that led to the experiment in the first place.

Is there a difference between faith and hope? At first glance, they appear to mean the same thing. If you think about it, however, you’ll be reminded that faith is a “in the now” thing, while hope looks towards the future. Hope is a desire for something to come and faith is based on beliefs that can’t be proven. In addition, with hope, there may be doubt. With faith, doubt does not exist. Faith is also often preceded by the word “blind”.

Most likely, I’ll never sway my son to have faith, and he’ll never convince me that having faith is a negative thing, but I can hope he changes his mind. Though their differences may seem to have blurred lines at times, I need both in my life, and I have to accept that he does not. However, if I ever do come up with another example of faith, he’ll be the first to know.

I know I’m supposed to like them, but…

November 6, 2015
– There’s a certain responsibility that comes with calling yourself a major movie fan. One of the biggest may be the obligation to appreciate those elite films considered to be the best. Take “Casablanca”, for example. It typically appears on the favorite’s list for many critics and film experts. Likewise for “Citizen Kane”, often called the greatest movie ever made. While I love “Casablanca” and everything about it, the appeal of “Citizen Kane” is lost on me, and it bored me from start to finish.

In honor of the soon to be released Star Wars movie, here’s a reblog of 10 movies that critics often praise but I despise.

1. Star Wars –Sure it’s cool to be a fan, but I have never been one to sing the praises of “Star Wars” or any of its episodes. I realize that I am in the minority and that this series of films is considered a true American epic and the third highest grossing series of all time, but I never understood why. Sorry, Mr. Lucas, but I’m not a sci-fi fan. I will give you major kudos on the cleverness you displayed when it came to naming your characters, though. You don’t come across people named Chewbacca and Obi Wan Kenobi every day.

2. Blue Velvet– Perhaps I’m just picking on “Blue Velvet”, the surreal film classic and sophomore effort of the highly unusual David Lynch. It’s actually Lynch’s entire body of work that leaves me scratching my head. I enjoyed “Wild at Heart” and adored “The Straight Story” mainly because of the late and great Richard Farnsworth, but I’m still trying to figure out most of Lynch’s films, including the bizarre “Eraser Head” and “Mulholland Drive”. “Blue Velvet” stands out because it’s probably the most famous of all of Lynch’s works, and it was the first one I tried to like.

3. The Lord of the Rings – As a teenager, I read one page of “The Hobbit”, put it down and never picked it up again. The people of middle earth didn’t do it for me. I didn’t like reading the “Lord of the Flies” or “Of Mice and Men”, yet managed to get through the film versions of these classics without throwing a tomato at the screen, so I told myself it would be the same with “The Lord of the Rings”. Alas, I fell asleep during the first film, which is a sure sign to pass on the follow-up films in the series. Still, there is one saving grace. Like “Star Wars”, big props go out to J.R.R. Tolkien for his imagination when naming the characters. Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are awesome names, and I’m tempted to get a dog just to name him Gandalf.

4. The Matrix – Another popular series of movies that I’ve tried to enjoy, yet simply didn’t understand. Not one bit.

5. There Will Be Blood – As a Daniel Day-Lewis fan who has enjoyed mostly every performance he’s given us from “My Left Foot” to “The Age of Innocence” and my favorite, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, it is difficult for me to say I hated this movie. But that’s the truth. “There Will Be Blood” is the story of greed and one man’s ruthless journey to become the wealthiest oil man in the country. The performances in this movie were practically flawless and every major critic had it on their short list, if not as their number one movie pick for 2007. But there was nothing redeeming about any of the characters, which made it difficult for me to watch. It left me feeling hopeless, so much so that I will never watch this film again, and as someone who can watch movies again and again, that is a sure sign of dislike.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Like the Matrix, I tried to enjoy it, but the plot was completely over my head. I still question if there really was a plot at all. Honestly, I’ve never gotten through the entire movie; the music, which is fantastic, always lulls me to sleep.

7. The Tree of Life – The movie is a visual stunner, and received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its artistic style, but some critics took issue with Terrance Malick’s directorial style and, in particular, the film’s disconnected flow. I have to agree with latter because the movie turns into a collection of scenes that never fit together and were not entertaining in the least. For me, this is a huge wasted effort on the part of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

8. Leaving Las Vegas – I don’t require every movie to have a happy ending, or even a happy theme, but this particular movie, which starred Nicholas Cage as a depressed alcoholic planning to drink himself to death in Las Vegas, and Elizabeth Shue as the prostitute who tries to save him, is right up there with the saddest movies ever made. Perhaps sadder yet, it is based on a true story, which really makes me never want to see this film again.

9. The Piano – Critics praised the cast of Jane Campion’s drama about a mute pianist in 19th century New Zealand, and major awards were showered upon Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin (who was only 11 at the time). But there was nothing visually appealing about this movie, and Hunter’s facial expressions (she played the mute character) started to drive me crazy midway through. I was very disappointed when she ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress that year. What I hated most, however, was her daughter’s betrayal at the end of the movie, which leads to one of the most horrific scenes ever filmed.

10. The Way We Were – As a woman, I’m supposed to find “The Way We Were” to be the most romantic movie of all time. The classic story that starred Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand as young lovers who meet in college in the 1930s and are ripped apart by political differences struck a chord with many movie goers back in 1973, and that tradition has continued, especially with the female audience. If you polled a number of women about their favorite romantic movies, chances are “The Way We Were” would be a strong contender. For me, the film was dull and too drawn out. And while I usually enjoy performances by Redford, there is something about Streisand that rubs me the wrong way; aside from “Funny Girl” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, I’ve never been a fan of her films.