A Walk through Valley Forge National Park

November 8, 2015 — An interesting place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there — as George Washington and his soldiers did during the harsh winter of 1777-1778.





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.

Ranking the Best

featherNovember 5, 2015 – Who are the best writers of all time?

According to those who rated them on Ranker.com, here is the incredibly long list.

It’s interesting how far you have to scroll down to find a female author, or someone who is alive. It’s even more interesting how much more scrolling is required before you find a mainstream author. There aren’t too many on the list.

Looks like I’m in the minority because I enjoy modern fiction more than the classics.

Election Day

thNovember 3, 2015 – In honor of Election Day, here are five things you should know about the midterm elections, according to USA Today.

Of course, the BIG election isn’t until November 2016 here in the U.S., leaving us all with 364 more days to relish in the poor behavior of debate moderators and candidates from both sides. It’s exhausting!

Who’s with me in believing that candidates should only be permitted to run political campaigns for a specified time before the election? They are too long and expensive, not to mention ridiculous with all of the negative campaigns run by most candidates.

Perhaps we should take into consideration the campaign habits in other countries; in the UK, for example, a political campaign runs for approximately four to six weeks. That’s it. Even if we lengthen it to six months, it would be a major improvement. That’s definitely the appropriate amount of time to select a candidate.

Forbidden Drive

November 2, 2015 – I’ve lived in Philadelphia practically my entire life, so imagine my surprise when I learned about a new trail through my fair city.

The Forbidden Drive, also known as Wissahickon Valley Park Trail is seven miles in length and winds through a sometimes tame and sometimes rugged trail along the Wissahickon Creek. It was named Forbidden Drive because in the 1920s, cars were banned from it. It’s now a haven for hikers, dog walkers and bike riders who like a little challenge and lots of beautiful scenery.

The autumn colors are a bit passed their peak, but they were still lovely for my early Saturday morning walk.