Ten Things Don’t Like…in No Particular Order!

August 7, 2017 — 1. Political campaigns. Once upon a time, I found politics interesting and almost enjoyable. But after the ugliness of this last presidential campaign and the horror that continues each, I am disgusted by most politicians and most of the media. I used to enjoy a good political debate now and then, but they even turn my stomach now. We’ve accepted negative campaigning as the norm these days, the constant bickering of both political parties, who have all of the power, making them something I don’t like at all.

2. Alarm clocks. How wonderful would it be if we all woke up naturally every morning, without the annoying sounds of an alarm to jump-start our day? After years of waking up for work, I’ve gotten to the point where I usually wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off anyway, but the idea of alarm clocks still bother me.

3. Bad umpires. I’m talking about those nasty men at the major league level with enough ego and attitude to ruin a great ball game or even an entire season with a bad call. Those bad calls seem to come more frequently these days (does anyone know where the strike zone is anymore?) and yet they are never accountable for their botched calls. Note to all major league baseball umpires: People pay to see the players, not you. So, don’t try to steal the show with your crazy theatrics.

4. Bullying. My heart goes out to anyone who struggles with physical or mental abuse from the cowards who bully them. It’s nice to see bullying laws and policies changing for the better across the country, but it won’t be enough until we all wake up and realize we should support each other instead of knocking each other down.

5. Littering. Why would anyone think it is acceptable throw their trash out of a car window or anywhere outside? I realize we are a disposable society, and we have far too much trash, but the least we can do is get rid of it properly. Maybe TV executives should rerun those commercials from the 1970s that showed the Native American running through the woods with a tear rolling down his cheek when he comes across all of the trash on the ground. If that image isn’t enough to make you stop throwing your garbage in the great outdoors, you don’t have a soul.

6. Math. Math actually scares me more than annoys me, but I put it on this list because either way I look at it, I don’t like it. I’m not talking about basic math – I can add, subtract, multiply and divide with the best of them – but anything beyond that is not comprehensible to me. It’s difficult for me to believe that without math we wouldn’t have music…or art…or… I like to think of math as logical and music and the arts as creative, and in my world they remain opposites.

7. Arrogant people. I don’t want to spend time around people who are pretentious or overbearing, who show a complete disregard for others, or who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves. And there’s nothing else to say about the matter.

8. Heat waves. It’s been a long hot summer, and I’m ready for a change in temperature. I actually don’t care for the extremes of hot or cold, but I’d take the winter over the summer any day. Like politics, weather perfection is found in the middle. Give me spring and fall year round and I’m happy.

9. Waiting. We all know them. Those people who are never on time for anything; the type who show up at 10:30 when you were supposed to meet at 10 and think nothing of it. I’m a punctual person, and I believe it’s considerate of people’s time to show up when I say I will. Occasional trip ups are acceptable; we can’t control everything in life, such as traffic jams or anything else that can slow us down now and then. But the perpetually late people who keep me waiting is different. I may like or even love you, but I don’t like it when you keep me waiting.

10. The day after. I’ve never cared for the day after a big event, especially one that you’ve planned and looked forward to for a long time, such as a wedding, a reunion, Christmas, or any big social event. The day after is always a letdown, and often leaves you feeling blah, and like you don’t have anything else to look forward to. Fortunately, that feeling leaves as quickly as it arrives when life moves on and you have no choice but to go along with it.

Five reasons autumn is awesome

imagesOctober 21, 2016 – Why does the third season of the calendar year have two official names? Most people around the world refer to that season as autumn, but people in the United States and Canada call it fall because as the days get shorter the sun continues to ‘fall’ closer to the horizon. The best season of the year deserves two names, and here are five reasons why:

1. Perfect weather. Warm days and cool nights are appealing and commonly referred to in my home as “no utility” weather. The air conditioners are silent, and the heat is off, which is a nice break for your budget. Better yet, the windows are open, providing the perfect environment for curtains fluttering in the breeze.

2. Brilliant colors. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area that changes seasons beautifully, and that is more apparent in the fall. Vibrant oranges, reds, and golds unfold across the landscape as the colors change, and the harvest provides plenty of colors, too. Pumpkins adorn doorsteps and gardens along the city streets, and now that many people decorate for Halloween, orange lights can be spotted in windows and strung through railings everywhere. The scents of fall are heavenly, too. There’s nothing more appealing than walking into a grocery store, while the scent of cinnamon pinecones tingle your sense of smell.

3. The approaching holiday season. It’s hard to ignore the arrival of Christmas items in stores beginning in August, which is too early I’ll agree, but it’s best to go with it. Christmas may occur during the early winter, but the buildup of the holiday can be experienced all throughout the autumn season. Of course, Halloween and Thanksgiving come first, two holidays, which celebrate this wonderful season perfectly, so there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy.

4. Baseball playoffs. In the world of sports, there’s nothing like baseball playoffs. It beats the Super Bowl and the Olympics, although I know there are some who would disagree. As a Phillies fan, I won’t be cheering on my team this playoff season, but that’s OK. I enjoy the playoffs more when my team isn’t playing, maybe even a little more. That may sound strange, but it’s more enjoyable because it’s less stressful.

5. It’s not winter yet. It’s sad that a long winter has to follow the best season of the year, but it only makes me appreciate autumn even more.

Bad Cinema – 18 family pics for the worst movie ever

cinemashutterstock_129623003September 9, 2016 – A family gathering provided a perfect opportunity to ask everyone to name the worst movie they ever saw. Here is The McMaster’s List of Bad Cinema, better known as movies you want to avoid.

Night of the Living Dead. The cult classic from 1968, a small, independent horror film that cost only $114,000 to make, is my father’s selection. Since it’s gone on to make $18 million internationally, that original $114,000 seems like a rather good investment. Yet, the story is laughable; two teenagers drive to rural Pennsylvania to visit their father’s grave. They find something amiss at the cemetery; all of the corpses have come back to life with the sole purpose of killing every human in sight. I’m still puzzled by this, since the zombies move slower than a snails’ pace and any typical human could out run them with ease.

Love Me Tender. Elvis Presley starred in my mother’s pick for the worst movie she’s ever seen. It was his first movie role, which should explain volumes, and viewing it was a part of her first date with my father. The 1956 black and white movie cast Elvis as a Civil War soldier, and a corny one at that. Although I’ve never seen it, Mom says that the death scene, where Elvis succumbs to whatever kills him, is laughable. But Elvis went on to have a pretty lucrative movie career despite her poor review. My parents went on to have four children and nine grandchildren, so things worked out pretty well for them, too.

Hot Tub Time Machine. I’ve never heard of this movie from 2010, but it’s my sister, Linda’s pick for worst ever. Just by the title alone, it sounds awful. The premise may be creative: a malfunctioning hot tub (which also happens to be a time machine) at a ski resort takes a group of young men back to 1986 where they must relive a fateful night. The cast includes John Cusack (who signifies the 1980s on film). Alas, she tells me it is one “really immature piece of filmmaking.”

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. I’m not too familiar with this film, selected by my brother-in-law, Roland, but at least I’ve heard of it. This British spy film from 1965 starred Richard Burton in the lead role and focused on espionage during the cold war. Although it did get some good reviews, it’s definitely not a movie that you should expect a child to love. Roland admits he was young when he saw it, and it obviously left a terrible impression. Perhaps another viewing as an adult is in order to form a true opinion, but Roland decided to stick to his guns on this one.

Water World. Another one that would make my all-time bad list is the selection of my brother-in-law, Rex. This bleak futuristic piece of garbage from 1995 has humans has surviving some kind of disaster (perhaps the polar caps melted) and searching for dry land. While some viewers thought it was the most underrated movie ever, I think Rex agrees with me that this feature deserved a Razzie, which it earned, instead of an Oscar, and is regarded as one of the biggest flops in the history of motion pictures.

The English Patient. Speaking of Oscars, my sister, Patti’s pick won a whopping nine of them, including Best Picture in 1997. However, I have to agree that it was pretty bad. Perhaps you could argue that the cinematography was great, but the story was too long and dreadfully boring. I didn’t hate it, but Patti did, and so did Elaine Benes, on Seinfeld who said the movie “stunk!”

Tree of Life. Despite its critical acclaim and award nominations, my brother David has named this movie the biggest piece of crap he’s ever seen in his life. While his opinion may seem harsh, I admit I didn’t like it either, mainly because I didn’t understand it. The film, nominated for the 2011 Best Picture, stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, so you’d think it would be a powerhouse. Instead, it 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, and apparently for my brother, too.

Mom and Dad Save the World. My nephew, Rick’s pick as the worst movie he’s ever seen, is a stupid comedy from 1992 that defies all imaginable logic. I remember seeing this when it was out on video back in the day, and I agree with his assessment. It stars Jeffrey Jones, the man who played the principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and who just happens to totally freak me out in every role he plays. He’s just one of those actors that gives me the creeps! There are so many brilliant comedies out there, so why anyone would want to waste their time on this one is beyond me, and apparently, Rick too.

Troll 2. My niece, Lauren’s pick is another one that I’ve missed (thankfully) but a little research tells me it showed up on a lot of best worst movie lists in 1990. There are no well-known stars in the horror movie comedy, but Rotten Tomatoes has this to say about it: “There are movies that are bad. Then there are movies that are so bad, they’re good.” Still, it only scores 6 percent on the Tomatometer, so it can’t be that bad good.

Titanic. Admittedly, my nephew Ryan isn’t a movie person. He considers watching one too much of an investment of his time because it’s two hours you’ll never get back, or in this case, the three hours plus it would take to see this 1997 James Cameron vehicle. Therefore, he considers “Titanic” the worst movie ever made, and while I wasn’t a huge fan, I think it had its good moments, but I know plenty of people who would give him a high-five for his brave choice.

Limitless. I never saw or heard of this thriller from 2011, but it’s my son, Charlie’s pick for worst movie. At the first read of the review, the plot seems a little intriguing. A writer, played by Bradley Cooper, who is suffering from writer’s block, decides he has nothing to lose and tries a new drug that allows him to tap into his full potential. But oh, those damn side effects. The movie also stars Robert DeNiro, who’s had his share of stinkers lately, and also appears in another movie further down on our family list.

Constantine. My niece Leigh’s selection for the movie she ‘s loathed the most is the 2005 fantasy thriller “Constantine”. The film deals with your basic nightmare, and stars Keanu Reeves (hmm … stars and Keanu Reeves … isn’t that an oxymoron) as the man who sees all and therefore must save the world from the evils of hell. I think Leigh and I both agree that the poor script and the casting is truly the devil’s work indeed.

Birdman. Apparently my family doesn’t care much for the Oscar winners. My nephew, Adam’s pick won Best Picture and Best Actor (Michael Keaton) in 2014. This is another I haven’t seen, and I’m not sure I want to add it to my list after Adam’s review. Honestly, I had no desire to see it before Adam’s review! I know a lot of people who loved it, but they are equaled by those like Adam, who hated every minute of it. Happy birthday, Adam!

The Green Lantern. Another recent film from 2011 that made our most despised list is this pick from my nephew, Macey. Strange, he’s the targeted age group for super hero movies, yet he says it was the stupidest movie ever. This is another movie I haven’t seen, but I’m not really into the super hero thing. I think I can live the rest of my life comfortably if I skip this one altogether, and I can safely assume that Macey doesn’t ever want to see it again, either.

The Intern. My niece, Carly’s pick, is the most recent release on the list. This 2015 Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway vehicle is probably fresh in everyone’s minds since it is running on cable TV right now, and I watched it about a month ago. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it as much as Carly did. I need to ask her if it’s an Anne Hathaway thing (since many people despise her) or it was the movie itself that was a turnoff. It made me a little uncomfortable to know that Hathaway’s character was DeNiro’s boss in the film, since he can run circles around her every which way, but I suppose that’s why they call it acting.

Avatar the Airbender. I never heard of my nephew, David’s pick, from 2010. I know the original Avatar, if they are at all related, but the name of this movie escapes me completely, so it took a bit of research to discover that it’s an action fantasy adventure written and directed by none other than M. Night Shyamalan. Reading the reviews, it seems like David is not alone in his assessment. Many people sat in the theater praying for this movie to end. Shyamalan defends his movie, though, and about a year ago, it was announced that he’s making a sequel. Yikes.

Jack and Jill. This Adam Sandler comedy, about a set of brother and sister twins, both played by Sandler, is my nephew, Jack’s selection. The movie was released in 2011, when Sandler was cranking out one bad comedy movie after another and likely making a fortune, but I have to agree with Jack, that this one is the worst of the bunch. It only scored 3 percent on the Tomatometer, the lowest I ever saw. I also couldn’t find one positive review from a critic, and I’m not sure that ever happened before.

Nothing But Trouble. This insane piece of celluloid is my pick for the Worst. Movie. Ever! You’d think a movie that starred Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy (all in their prime) and Demi Moore (fresh off her success in the mega hit “Ghost”) had a lot of potential. I certainly thought so when I went to see this so-called comedy in 1991. Turns out it was the scariest movie I ever saw and not because it was supposed to be. It tells the story of a four people who get arrested for speeding in route from New York City to Atlantic City. They become prisoners of the kooky bunch of nut jobs who live in the small, quaint New Jersey town. I feel awful that I forced my son to see this piece of monstrosity when he was a young, impressionable boy.

Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to add your selections to the comments below so we can save other readers wasting their time on bad cinema.

Get Off to a Great Start in 2016

great startJanuary 6, 2016 – A fresh, clean slate is presented to each of us at the beginning of every New Year. Here are a few simple tips that may help you ease your way into a successful 2016.

1. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Most of us make them with good intentions, but quickly we get frustrated and fall off track. Sure, resolutions are great to want to make improvements, if we keep them, but too often we reach for the sky when we should make changes at a slower pace. Statistics show that only a small percent of those who make resolutions actually keep them, anyway. Here’s proof that the reason we fail is because our brains can’t handle resolutions.

2. Create a list of goals. If you want to make any type of change in your life start by writing down each goal, and then tackle the items on the list one at a time. When you’ve completed a goal, it may give you satisfaction and drive to cross it off the list. I know that works for me. By starting small, with one goal and taking steps towards achieving it every day, you can begin to change your behavior. Soon the new behavior becomes a habit and once something is a habit, you’re more likely to stick with it. Here’s more information about the science behind building habits that stick.

3. Remember to breathe. My niece has the word “breathe” tattooed on her wrist. She got it in support of my mother who suffered with emphysema and required an oxygen generator to perform a function many of us take for granted. It’s also a reminder, she explained, that we need to slow down and remember to breathe. Wise words. I remember in a training class when the instructor asked us to pair off with the person sitting next to us and tell each other about ourselves for 30 seconds. Sounds simple, right? I’m not too fond of public speaking, but with an audience of only one, I expected to breeze through it. Unfortunately, I performed the task like a banshee, telling the dazed woman next to me everything I could think of, and at rapid fire speed. When I was finished, I was almost panting like I just ran a few miles because I had forgotten to breathe. I had plenty of time to catch my breath, though, and listen to my partner tell me all about herself in a calm and collected manner, and at a much slower pace. Remembering to breathe would have saved me from that awkward situation, and probably countless others in my life. At the very least it would have gotten me through a 30 second speech without turning blue. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing is also good to control stress, anxiety, high blood pressure and more. Learn more about the benefits of deep breathing exercises.

4. Be Curious. Did you know that being curious can lead to a happier, healthier life? Curiosity may have killed the cat, something my mother used to say to me because I was a curious kid who asked lots of questions, but curiosity should never be considered negative. Children are naturally curious and we can always learn a lot by watching them. By definition, the word curious means eager to learn more, and what is wrong with that? Curiosity can lead you to discovering new interests, hobbies and passions, and help you feel engaged in your life. Here are 10 reasons why you should be curious.

5. Don’t forget to laugh. Your ability to find humor in life’s crazy and wonderful situations is most important. Research has shown that having a sense of humor has a positive effect on a person’s health, happiness and success in life. For example, finding your sense of humor in stressful situations or difficult times usually helps you get through it much easier. Not only that, a sense of humor is an important part of brain development in young children. When a child laughs – or anyone else for that matter – blood flow increases to the brain and they feel energized and alert. Don’t you always feel better after a hearty laugh? Here’s more scientific proof that laughter truly is the best medicine.

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.

10 Reasons to Keep Blogging

timthumbOctober 28, 2015 – Yesterday I wrote about how difficult it’s been for me to stick to a steady blogging schedule this year. So, I came up with 10 satisfying reasons why I’m in it for the long haul:

1. Blogging keeps me focused on writing. There’s no better reason to keep a blog going than a love for the written word. Even though I write for a living – working as an internal communications manager by day – blogging makes me think and write differently.

2. Blogging is creative. Nothing makes me feel giddier than a good creative project. It’s a natural high.

3. Blogging helped me discover other people’s blogs. Since I started blogging, I’ve discovered so many wonderful blogs and so many wonderful writers. WordPress helps by shining a spotlight on the best blog posts of the day out of the millions of blogs they host through their “Freshly Pressed” feature. I was more than honored when my post was featured in the “Freshly Pressed” section on June 5, 2013.

4. Blogging helps me keep a journal of my life. I often write about family and personal experiences, so it’s a great way to relive memories.

5. Blogging forces me to go places. Lots of interesting places were discovered in the name of research. Creating several series on the blog, such as “A Lunchtime Tourist in Her Own City”, which highlighted some of the things to do around Philadelphia during your lunch hour and “The Streets of Philadelphia”, which featured things to do in the area if you have more than an hour to spend has been a great experience. Both gave me a fresh perspective of my own city.

6. Blogging connects me with the rest of the world. Nothing is more satisfying than checking the blog’s metrics and discovering the clicks from around the world. I’m even more thrilled when I receive a comment from my global friends. I’ve also received some great comments from friends in the U.S. One of my favorites is from a photography post. I took a photo of a small house by the railroad tracks in Beth Ayres, Pa. because I found it fascinating. I actually heard from the grandson of the man who used to live there. Not sure how he found my blog, but it was awesome to hear from him.

7. Blogging helped me discover a love for photography. It all began with taking photos for my posts; then I got bit by the photo bug. Now I’m a full-fledged amateur photographer who is armed with a camera any chance I get.

8. Blogging has educated me. Whenever I consider writing about a topic, I do research and that always leads to an interesting circle. More so, I love learning by reading other people’s blogs. You can learn something new every day!

9. Blogging helps me stick to a goal. Sure, blogging can be a chore. But it’s satisfying to submit the click button on a new post and cross it off my to do list!

10. Blogging allows me celebrate fun milestones. I remember my first post, my 100th post and all of the other milestones along the way. When I started back in 2010, I wondered how long I would last. Now that I’m inching closer to 1,000, I’m more determined than ever to keep going.

The greatest horror films of all time

Halloween-2014-5October 24, 2014Halloween is only a week away, so there’s no better time to review a Ranker.com list of the greatest horror films ever made. Do you agree with #1? The greatest horror book for sure, but not greatest horror film.

That’s why I agree with this list from litreactor.com on the 10 scariest books ever written.

This is the perfect weekend to watch or read one of these classics, and get your fright on.