Archives April 2009

Movie Critique: April '09

 
Discriminating buffs who enjoy the best of motion pictures are entering into a time of the year when movie junk is in the theaters, mainly to attract teen and young adult audiences. But, we have seen a few gems within the mix, and some not so gemmy.
Here’s a few ratings:

The Soloist – 8 ½

Sunshine Cleaning – 7
Elegy – 8
Knowing – 5
“The Soloist”
Best picture so far in the 2009 season. Based on true events, the story focuses on two people; A homeless derelict (Jamie Foxx) whose early life included the Juliard school as a classical cellist, and a L.A. Times reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) who discovered and befriended him. Some folks will see this simply as a genius who fell into hard times when, in fact, it’s about the ravages of mental illness. Both men give Oscar worthy performances as the depth and versatility of each is nothing short of amazing. Foxx has won an Oscar for his betrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray”and has played in a number of other complicated roles since. Downey is to be admired, not only for his acting, but for having what it takes to pick himself up from the pits of drug addiction, and head forward into many outstanding accomplishments.
My only criticism is borne of my own musical (violin) eagle-eye, one which the average viewer may not have caught. While Foxx did an admirable job of portraying a cellist, the technical downside glared through as he did not hold the instrument nor bow correctly, nor was there any vibrato as the fingers lay gently…not firmly…upon the strings. But..that’s being picky.
If you enjoy a good drama, this a very good film.
“Sunshine Cleaning”
A sleeper. We had not expected much from this picture, other than a reason to kill a couple of relaxing hours. This is about blue collar America, basic family dispute, tragedy, struggle and love…lots of love, disguised as anger and frustration. Amy Adams plays a single mom who works as a maid, and then with her hippie sister running a cleaning operation that handles ugly, stinky crime scenes. In no time, the girls are up to their necks in murders, suicides and other death cases which spins off into a number of zany, and sometimes tragic events.
Alan Arkin plays Amy’s dad, and grandfather of the little boy who he cares for when mom is at work. A very heart-warming, and down-to-earth story, well acted, that surprisingly holds your attention.
“Elegy”
Released in August of 2008, this picture was apparently a box office flop, but it looked interesting when we perused through Blockbuster’s last week and gave it a try. Glad we did. Not only because it offers Penelope Cruz in a completely uninhibited, topless scene, the acting of Ben Kingsley and her should have made Hollywood headlines. They are magnificent in their roles as unlikely lovers, he a 60ish playboy college professor and she, a student who is set apart from anyone he has ever known. Director Isabel Coixet, draws the best from Cruz and Kingsley as the viewer remains glued to the story from beginning to end. Worthwhile, if you appreciate good drama.

“Knowing”
We saw this a few weeks ago. Nicolas Cage stars as (what else) a college professor who investigates the past deeds of a child who seemed to have supernatural powers, able to predict disasters. Not a bad film, but not great. The acting was not even close to the caliber of Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis in “Sixth Sense,” which this picture seemed to emulate.
Your thoughts?
 
 

Movie Critique: April ’09

 

Discriminating buffs who enjoy the best of motion pictures are entering into a time of the year when movie junk is in the theaters, mainly to attract teen and young adult audiences. But, we have seen a few gems within the mix, and some not so gemmy.

Here’s a few ratings:

The Soloist – 8 ½

Sunshine Cleaning – 7

Elegy – 8

Knowing – 5

“The Soloist”

Best picture so far in the 2009 season. Based on true events, the story focuses on two people; A homeless derelict (Jamie Foxx) whose early life included the Juliard school as a classical cellist, and a L.A. Times reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) who discovered and befriended him. Some folks will see this simply as a genius who fell into hard times when, in fact, it’s about the ravages of mental illness. Both men give Oscar worthy performances as the depth and versatility of each is nothing short of amazing. Foxx has won an Oscar for his betrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray”and has played in a number of other complicated roles since. Downey is to be admired, not only for his acting, but for having what it takes to pick himself up from the pits of drug addiction, and head forward into many outstanding accomplishments.

My only criticism is borne of my own musical (violin) eagle-eye, one which the average viewer may not have caught. While Foxx did an admirable job of portraying a cellist, the technical downside glared through as he did not hold the instrument nor bow correctly, nor was there any vibrato as the fingers lay gently…not firmly…upon the strings. But..that’s being picky.

If you enjoy a good drama, this a very good film.

“Sunshine Cleaning”

A sleeper. We had not expected much from this picture, other than a reason to kill a couple of relaxing hours. This is about blue collar America, basic family dispute, tragedy, struggle and love…lots of love, disguised as anger and frustration. Amy Adams plays a single mom who works as a maid, and then with her hippie sister running a cleaning operation that handles ugly, stinky crime scenes. In no time, the girls are up to their necks in murders, suicides and other death cases which spins off into a number of zany, and sometimes tragic events.

Alan Arkin plays Amy’s dad, and grandfather of the little boy who he cares for when mom is at work. A very heart-warming, and down-to-earth story, well acted, that surprisingly holds your attention.

“Elegy”

Released in August of 2008, this picture was apparently a box office flop, but it looked interesting when we perused through Blockbuster’s last week and gave it a try. Glad we did. Not only because it offers Penelope Cruz in a completely uninhibited, topless scene, the acting of Ben Kingsley and her should have made Hollywood headlines. They are magnificent in their roles as unlikely lovers, he a 60ish playboy college professor and she, a student who is set apart from anyone he has ever known. Director Isabel Coixet, draws the best from Cruz and Kingsley as the viewer remains glued to the story from beginning to end. Worthwhile, if you appreciate good drama.

“Knowing”

We saw this a few weeks ago. Nicolas Cage stars as (what else) a college professor who investigates the past deeds of a child who seemed to have supernatural powers, able to predict disasters. Not a bad film, but not great. The acting was not even close to the caliber of Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis in “Sixth Sense,” which this picture seemed to emulate.

Your thoughts?

 

 

HEADSCRATCHING 101: WHAT A WORLD

What a world we live in.

Can you imagine a clothing style where women … especially fat women…wear low rise pants and skirts so their guts can hang over for all to admire?

Can you imagine a dress style in America where young men walk around with their pants hanging under the cheeks of their ass, so their underwear is completely exposed? And parents say it’s okay?

Can you imagine youngsters on a dance floor doing nothing other than dry sex with clothes on? Welcome to 2009, folks.

Can you imagine admiring performers like Frankie Avalon, Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles singing lyrics about raping women, killing cops and using drugs…and our kids make them rich by buying millions of their records? Welcome to gangsta rap. And these guys win Grammy awards. Well…after all, Elvis wiggled his pelvis, right?

Can you imagine school officials strip searching a 13 year-old girl, because she was caught with an Advil? Or suspending a 9 year-old for giving a Cert mint to a friend? Again, welcome to 2009. It just happened in Manassas, Va.

Can you imagine arresting a 19 year-old for having consensual sex with a 17 year-old girl, then sentencing him to prison for ten years? Genarlow Wilson. Google him.

Can you imagine a college senior with no criminal record, being sentenced to life in prison with no parole, for introducing a cocaine buyer to a seller? Google Clarence Aaron.

Can you imagine, a world where murderous pirates ravage the high seas for years on end, by the thousands, kidnaping hostages like snatching stray puppies, killing people, firing on innocents every day aboard vessels, and when they are captured…guess what? They are released… to do it again? Har har har. The laughs on us.

Can you imagine the reactions from Thomas Jefferson, or even Harry Truman, when we tell them our Homeland Security Secretary says immigrating illegally into the U.S. is not a crime?

Napolitano: “…when we find illegal workers … some of which is criminal, most of that is civil, because crossing the border is not a crime per se.”

Can you even imagine what the founding fathers would think if they were told we have allowed almost 20 million aliens into our country illegally and our taxpayers will foot the bill for their health and housing costs.

Can you imagine capturing enemy combatants who have sworn to kill as many of us as they can, and then releasing them back to their army to kill again…while the war still wages? Are you shaking your heads?

Can you imagine someone like Adolf Hitler being called to speak at an international summit on human rights, racism and tolerance? Of course not.

But can you imagine, Ahmadinejad, the Jew-hating, gay-hating, nuke threat from Iran who swears to annihilate Israel, being invited to speak at an international summit on racism and tolerance? Of course not. Wait. Imagine it again because it just happened in Geneva, where representatives of the European Union and other delegations walked out.

Can you imagine a leader of a major country claiming the Holocaust never happened, and people still listen to him… and applaud?

Can you imagine Dwight Eisenhower bowing waste level to anyone, yet to Nikita Khrushchev, even though he knew that the Soviet Union had designs on conquering the west? Of course not.

Can you imagine a president bowing to a Wahhabist Saudi King, who spends kazillions investing in the west for the ultimate purpose of controlling America and Europe? A Saudi king who presides over a nation that considers women chattel, who rewards suicide bombers for killing Jews, whose Islamic teachings are about hate and subjugation of women, who practice and condone honor killings and beheadings. Bowing? Our president? Of course not. But..wait…it just happened.

Can you imagine a U.S. president declaring that our country is going to cut back a missile defense system, while countries like North Korea and Iran are testing long range missiles, ostensibly for the purpose of carrying nuclear bombs that will destroy innocent people in our country, or our ally nations? That’s like dropping your gun belt while you’re in a duel to the death.

Can you imagine someone who failed to pay $34 thousand in back taxes for four years, being confirmed as the Secretary of the Treasury?

Can you imagine a member of parliament from the Netherlands being subject to criminal charges because he loves his country and speaks out against a rising threat the very existence of its culture? Can you imagine free speech relegated to the Dempsey Dumpster? Can you imagine that same Dutch diplomat being refused a visa to the UK to give a talk, because they were afraid of what Muslims would think?

Can you imagine capitulating to a country (Saudi Arabia) that demands religious tolerance in America, but imprisons anyone in their country who so much as carries a bible in their possession?

Can you imagine living in a European country (France) where a particular culture routinely goes about intimidating, terrifying and rioting everywhere, and then that country arrests an international celebrity for complaining about it… five times! Google: Brigitte Bardot.

Can you imagine an American government that sends troops 12,000 miles overseas to confront radical Islamic terrorists, yet pays no attention to thirty-five (or more) such radical enclaves right here, nestled in the confines of our own United States.

Can you imagine an America where the world of communists and radical Islamists are supporting and revelling in the new leadership of our country, and we don’t think it’s a problem for our grandchildren?

Can you imagine winning the gun war, but losing the propaganda war…and then, the tactical war of infiltration?

I can.

Can you imagine…in the wake of WWII and the holocaust … disregarding a document penned by a major international organization which spells out the war plan for conquering the west? We have done just that. “The Project” is no different than Mein Kampf…yet, we ignore.

Click here: FrontPage Magazine

Click: The Counterterrorism Blog: The project

 

Can you imagine Americans naive enough to let it happen all over again, only this time it is us who apologizes to the rest of the world for being us. And we think that’s going to appease?

Can you imagine telling the world that we are not at war with Islam, when Islam — or a major radical sect within — has made it clear they are at war with us? Very, very clear.

Can you imagine fighting the Japanese and Nazi Germany, then claiming we are not at war with them, but we’re just fighting bombs and airplanes? How is that different than saying we are at war against terror?

 Can you imagine kissing the butts of those who would annihilate us…and we know that. But we do it anyway?

 What a world. I’ll take 1940, 1960 or 1980 anytime. At least we had pride.

 

 

Sharia Finance: Nearing The Slippery Slope

Inch by Inch, the enemy creeps in.

The focus and the goal never wavers for those who would take over and alter our way of life. This warning, reprinted here, from ACT for America, should be forwarded to everyone possible. Please get the word out.  Twenty years ago, this was a non-issue in the western world. Today, it’s a huge issue, especially in the U.K and other European countries. It’s a trend, a trend toward future Islamic domination which we are ignoring, they love it. They love a stupid America. They thrive on ignorance. They thrive on apathy.

In twenty more years, the issue of Sharia will be even bigger, more dominant…and more irreversible. We may be approaching the slippery slope.  Meanwhile, Americans sit by. Ho hum. Politicians mainly worry about getting elected, not what is in the best interests of America’s grandchildren.  Our grandchildren. And their children.

Once our enemies control the money, we’re sunk.  This blog will be short on my part to allow space for readers to peruse the comments by ACT for America and the April 13th article in the Washington Times, “Shariah bankers: West ready for faith-based alternative?”

WHEN IT COMES TO SHARIAH FINANCE – MONEY TALKS  (From ACT for America)
Ever heard the expression “Money Talks”?

Why is it that Great Britain is now faced with Islamic extremism every where they turn? They have 12 Shariah courts, publicly-funded Shariah Islamic education, welfare benefits for up to four wives for every Muslim man, honor killings, children falling off school rosters and suspected of being forced into child marriages, raging domestic violence and spousal abuse, and “no-go” zones where even British police are afraid to enter for fear of Islamist violence.

As we have noted frequently, Britain’s policy of “outreach” to the Islamic community has failed to accomplish what it hoped to accomplish. A critical aspect of this “outreach” has been Britain’s embrace of shariah finance. As Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared in 2006, London was going to be the Islamic Banking Capital of the World. Why? Money. And he got it.

At the June 13, 2006 Islamic Finance Trade Conference in London, Brown revealed,

“Today British banks are pioneering Islamic banking – London now has more banks supplying services under Islamic principles than any other Western financial centre.”

Because so many top business leaders, university professors, government officials, and religious leaders in Great Britain have bought into the fiction that Shariah Banking is just a harmless religious requirement for Islamic investment, there are few there in positions of leadership left to fight against Shariah. While we noted last week a positive development, the re-thinking of some of the British policy regarding the connection between Islamist doctrine and terrorism, can such a shift actually occur with Britain so beholden to Shariah finance and its money?

For those of you who have seen 1. Joy Brighton’s video about Shariah finance on our website, you know that one of the leading “Shariah finance scholars” himself, Sheik Qawadari, describes Shariah Banking as “Jihad with Money.” You know the story of what Shariah Banking is, its connection to the Shariah Law of Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Taliban, and you know its creation as a tool of political Islam to control global economics is not being told.

You also know that Shariah is already here in the U.S., thanks to the acceptance of Shariah finance by institutions such as Citibank, HSBC, UBS and AIG, and the lack of oversight by the SEC and U.S. Treasury Department. As the headline in the Washington Times article below asks, is the West ready for this? Actually, the better question to ask is this: Does the West understand that the embrace of Shariah finance is the eventual embrace of brutal and oppressive Shariah law?

With YOUR help, we at ACT! for America will be taking action to expose this one-sided story of Shariah Finance as a harmless religious requirement of Islamic investment. With YOUR help we will demand that financial institutions like Citibank, HSBC and AIG describe ALL the disturbing facts in their Shariah finance marketing materials. With YOUR help we will push for government hearings and legislation at all levels of government. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 13, 2009   THE WASHINGTON TIMES

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/13/shariah-bankers-west-ready-for-faith-based-alterna/

Shariah bankers: West ready for faith-based alternative?

Simon Roughneen (Contact)

SINGAPORE | Backers of Shariah-compliant finance see an opportunity for expansion amid the global economic downturn, and some Western banks are welcoming this growing source of new business.

“Islamic bankers should do some missionary work in the Western world to promote the concept of Shariah banking, for which many in the West are more than ready now,” Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the World Islamic Economic Forum last month in Jakarta.

Such statements have given rise to fears that Shariah finance is a stalking horse for hidden political or religious aims. Shariah finance is an extension of Islamic law, pushing a faith-based alternative to Western banking.

Key Islamists who advise Shariah financial houses have called for full Shariah law to be adopted in Western countries and, in some cases, have made statements supporting terrorist groups.

Shariah finance means institutions and norms that fit with Islamic law. Fully compliant Islamic financial institutions are prohibited from interest payments and require transactions to be backed by tangible assets.

Speculation and hedge funds are off limits — ditto for anything connected to porn, gambling, alcohol or pork. Shariah finance targets Muslims who want to avoid what are deemed “un-Islamic” Western banks or financial practices, and appeals to clients’ faith as well as their bottom line.

The practice has its detractors.

“A shift from present global economic practices [in which many Muslims participate] to Shariah-based practice” would mean “an unacceptable intrusion into Western culture,” said Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.
Mr. Schwartz said the sector is arguably un-Islamic by contradicting the traditional Islamic teaching that “Muslims living in non-Muslim societies must accept the laws and customs of the countries to which they immigrate.”

Depending on the measurements used, the Shariah finance sector manages assets of $700 billion to $800 billion, according to the Islamic Financial Services Board, an industry body. Standard and Poor’s estimates that the sector could reach $4 trillion before long.

Shariah banks make up a small fraction of the global banking sector, and they may have suffered less than Western counterparts by being sheltered from the subprime crisis.

However, as Duncan McKenzie, director of economics at International Financial Services London (IFSL), told The Washington Times: “Islamic finance is one model but is by no means a panacea. The Islamic finance industry faces a number of challenges, including the need to standardize interpretation of Shariah law, harmonize tax and regulation of the industry, and develop the skills base.”

Christopher Holton, vice president of the Center for Security Policy and director of its Shariah Risk Due Diligence Project, told The Times: “It is a myth that Islamic finance has provided a hedge against crisis. The FTSE Islamic Index has fallen 41 percent, and the all-world index 44 percent, similar losses over the past six months.”

Shariah finance remains dominated by banking, but the sector is diversifying. A growing proportion — up to 20 percent according to some estimates — is taken up by sukuk, which is a Shariah-compliant bond issuance. Malaysia is a dominant base for this particular service. Bonds can play a key role in helping countries deal with the global economic crisis, but the global sukuk market has fallen for two years in a row, in step with the global downturn.

Despite the varying prohibitions, some Shariah banks find creative ways to make the equivalent of market interest rates by other means, such as by pegging debtor repayment rates to his or her future profits, or when a bank offers a “hibah,” or gift to those who open an account — in essence a way of attracting new customers in lieu of interest accruals on savings.

Shariah finance likely will grow in coming years, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being followed by Indonesia, Turkey, Singapore and some Western countries as viable locations for expansion.

The IFSL recently published a detailed report on the sector highlighting how “the U.K. is getting ahead of the game, in Europe at least, in facilitating this sector” — as noted by Emile Abu-Shakra, media relations manager at British bank Lloyds TSB.

Lloyds stole a march on the competition by greasing the wheels for Shariah-compliant bank-to-bank transactions, and now Britain has a bigger Shariah finance sector than Egypt or Pakistan.
In total, 22 financial institutions offer Shariah-compliant services in Britain, compared with nine in the United States. However the American financial sector is eager to source and provide new products — among them Shariah finance.

American International Group Inc.’s December pledge to bring Islamic home insurance to the United States was met with a written rebuke by Rep. Sue Myrick, North Carolina Republican, and Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, who warned that opaque charitable transfers made by Shariah finance advisers could end up funding terrorists.

Mr. Holton said some Islamic financial institutions have been implicated directly in bankrolling terrorists. “From 1988 to 2001, when it was designated a terrorist entity by the United States and the United Nations, Bank al Taqwa [registered in the Bahamas] transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and others,” he said.

An elite cadre of scholars dominates the advisory boards of Shariah institutions, and these same thinkers are often called by Western institutions who want to develop Shariah-compliant products. However some, such as Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, are banned from entry into Britain and the United States for making statements supporting Islamist terrorism, while another, Mufti Taqi Usmani, who has advised the Wall Street Islamic index, has promoted extension of full Shariah law into Western countries.

Most troubling, perhaps, is the appearance of Bank Melli of Iran at the top of a listing of the world’s top 500 Islamic financial institutions, published by the Banker in November 2008 and reproduced in the IFSC report. Bank Melli is under U.S. and EU sanctions for facilitating Tehran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah and funding Iran’s uranium enrichment program. In total, Iran has six of the 10 biggest Shariah-compliant institutions and double the Shariah assets of any other country.

AT 70 – ONE LUCKY MAN

When baseball great Lou Gehrig was dying of his now-infamous disease in 1939, he stood in Yankee Stadium, hunched, and proclaimed, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

If that’s not seeing the glass half full, I don’t know what is. The Iron Horse, as the pundits dubbed him, thought not so much about his impending death, but his remarkable life, his humble upbringings and his enormous athletic talent that elevated him to fame and fortune, providing love and dignity to his family. He thought about the treasure of life. After all, he figured, we all gotta die sometime, what’s the big deal?

Reminds me of that poignant poem by Linda Ellis titled, “The Dash,” which focuses on a headstone marker, denoting the year of birth and the year of death, but all that really matters is that little dash in between the years. If you’ve never read it, here it is:

                          I read of a man who stood to speak
                               At the funeral of a friend.
                      He referred to the dates on her tombstone
                            From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

 

As the big 7 – 0 approaches for this blogger, Ms. Ellis’ poem, and Mr. Gehrig have given me cause to pause and reflect on glass half full. What a life!

I often wondered what it would have been like to see Babe Ruth hit a baseball, Paganini play a violin, or see an opera with Enrico Caruso, or live in a time when Mozart, Beethoven, DaVinci and Michaelangelo were alive. Or, the great Abraham Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Jefferson or Columbus, Moses or even Jesus himself.

How lucky I’ve been. I may not have been there in the old days, but I’ve lived to see Tiger Woods’ golf, Pete Sampras in tennis, Jim Brown’s football runs and Nolan Ryan’s fast ball. I’ve heard Pavarotti sing Puccini arias, and witnessed the legendary acting talents of Streep, DeNiro, Bette Davis and so many more. I was there to see and hear Ezio Pinza sing “Some Enchanted Evening” in 1949 New York. I’ve met the great Jascha Heifetz and stood in the wings, awestruck, when he played the Beethoven Concerto in D Major for violin. I lived in the time of Gandhi, Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler and Martin Luther King, Jr.and everyone else who has made a difference since April of 1939 when I entered planet Earth. I remember the Roosevelt funeral, the atom bomb, Korea and the Kennedy inaugural “Ask not” speech on a black & white television set. I was there, glued to a television set when men from my country set foot on the moon. These are people and events that will be the subject of history books in centuries to come, and I was there…so to speak.

I’ve been to famous monuments, the Louvre and other museums to witness the greatest art in the history of man. I stood in the White House, the Capitol and at the Speaker’s Box in the House of Commons. I’ve met governors, senators, and other celebrities. My views about crime in America were once sought after by members of the United States Congress.

I’ve played violin in symphonies, baseball in Babe Ruth Leagues, golf at the Doral Blue Monster, written books and had my humble opinions published in many newspapers and magazines. A stint in the Parris Island Marines and thirty years of law enforcement introduced me to every side of life known to man, the good and the bad, all of which has made me realize just how lucky I’ve been to have mind and body at my disposal, to cherish and to use.

I even managed to run a 26 mile marathon three years after quitting a four pack-a-day Pall Mall habit.

People my age have lived through some of the most significant transitions in history, socially, technologically and politically. Once, it was S.O.P. for people with darker skin to sit in a separate part of a bus, or drink from a separate water fountain. Today, it’s unthinkable. Once, people would have laughed at the concept of a black person becoming president of the United States. Those of us who were born in the 1930’s, watched the growth of technology change from file cards to computers, from a four-inch, rabbit-eared television, to i-Pods, Blackberries and plasma screens. Party lines and long distance rates are of the past. Now we can talk to anyone in the world, any time we wish, using a small hand-held device. Amazing. World travel for common people is unremarkable today, whereas it was once a phenomenon. Symphonies and concertos play in our homes and cars today, where we once had to attend concerts to enjoy such beauty of sound. Foods, fashion, housing, entertainment, medical advancements, longer life and improved health…the list is endless measuring today’s bounty. It would be beyond belief of our ancestors.

Now and then, I’ve managed to help others with their struggles, needs and ambitions…friends, family, children…and learned that giving is one of the most satisfying feelings one can ever experience. Little can match the unexpected letter from a long-lost colleague of a generation past, telling me how much I once meant to him or her. Or that surprise hug from a stranger at a library talk, telling me I changed his life forever when he was a teenager…and I didn’t even know it.

A Miami Beach bookie gave me the springboard that launched a law enforcement career and thus, a life of helping my fellow citizens live in a safer community. (or, at least, I’d like to think so) At the same time, that career provided an enormous well from which my life has been enriched with so many unique and wonderful friends.

Most of all, I have basked in the love of my French honey, (and sculptor artist) Suzanne, for twenty-two years, and of my ever-so-strong kids, now adult, who have weathered and survived some rocky roads of years past. It gladdens me to know I may have made a positive difference in their lives, somehow. And for the rocky roads, perhaps I helped them to learn the art of survival and the joy of achievement. It also gladdens me to know and enjoy my grandchildren, and that one day, I will meet my four-year-old great-granddaughter who lives in another far away state.

Sure, I’ve screwed up. Sometimes I screwed up really bad. I’ve hurt others in years past, and for that, I can only atone and try to make things better. I’ve overcome my share of adversity, only to emerge a better person, able to make others happy and to share the good things in life.

Of course, I would love to be a millionaire, though I’ve know paupers that were happier than some millionaires. And as I may ponder about material things others have, I never forget an old quotation that my best friend, Harvey Glaser, repeated almost 55 years ago:

There was a man who said… “I cried when I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.”

I don’t need a million dollars…it’s been a million dollar life.

If I were to die tomorrow, it would surely be too soon. But, anyone who would read my marker could say, “There’s a guy who didn’t waste his dash.”

Like Lou Gehrig, I am a lucky guy.

Thank you all…for being you.