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Administrative Law Judge
Corporate Training Specialist

Associate Legal Counsel to Police Commissioner William Bratton

Thursday, April 17, 2014

BURP!!!!!!! Sorry, I just had a bunch of breakfast meals at fast food restaurants this week as research for this blog post. I think I gained another five pounds but I didn’t spend that much money. Breakfast meals seem to be the most inexpensive purchase you can make at any fast food restaurant these days. Besides, Mom always used to say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Skip lunch and dinner if you have to skip a meal.  After this week, I feel that I should have skipped breakfast too. They should give out Tums like candy after eating that greasy messy stuff.

According to some reports, breakfast is becoming the most lucrative meal to prepare at fast food restaurants.  Americans are spending more money in the morning than ever before.  It seems that all the chain’s want   a piece of that bacon.  What happened to the days when Mom or Dad woke up early to make sure all the kids had a good hot breakfast before they went to school?  I guess those days   died along with the morning paper being delivered and read before your 9 to 5 job.  The reality now is that people work all sorts of shifts.  Dad leaves early while Mom stays in bed talking to her lover   on the phone till the kids are late for the bus and when she is driving them to school, maybe because having to stop speeding because of a   red light causing her to pause, she might make a right turn into the drive through long enough to throw a couple of bags of something resembling breakfast food into the back seat for the best catcher to have a decent breakfast.

Now   McDonald's and Taco Bell are in a bitter advertising battle fighting for your   morning breakfast meal money.  Taco Bell found real guys whose name is Ronald   McDonald and had them do commercials attesting to how wonderful Taco Bell’s breakfast is.  The commercials are very funny.  Rarely have you seen competitors trashing each other   this way other than politicians are on their way to Election Day.  On the Internet we will find a cartoon showing the Taco Bell Chihuahua   biting the heels of the   McDonald’s clown in a boxing   rink.  Taco Bell just opened up early a few weeks ago to serve breakfast.  They are selling things called a Waffle Taco, a Steak and Egg  Baretto  and  a AM Crunch Wrap.  Taco Bell has another advertisement showing a guy eating Egg McMuffins since 1984.  To update him they give him a new cell phone, cut off his mullet hair style, and give him new   Taco Bell breakfast to eat.  I wonder if all these attacks at one company will really improve Taco   Bell’s bottom line profit   numbers?

How did a chain of stores that usually serves Mexican Food think   they could take on a giant like McDonald’s?  The breakfast industry makes thirty two billion dollars per year just on their   breakfast items alone.  Other fast food chains in the breakfast game include places like Burger King, and Dunkin Donuts as well as places that don’t usually have a drive through like Starbucks and Subway.  McDonald’s  gets about 20% of its sales from breakfast.  The giant clown makes about 10 Billion dollars from breakfast alone per year. Taco Bell makes only 7.6 Billion dollars per year from total sales.  Those tiny dogs are  always arrogant with people much bigger than them. Hayley Peterson, a Retail Reporter from the Business Insider says that she thinks that Taco Bell can chip away at McDonald’s market share and the giant is  worried .

Taco Bell has been working on its morning menu for seven years. Chris Brandit, Chief Marketing Officer of Taco Bell says, they thought that breakfast was really boring and they want to shake up the routine.  I think they just really need a boost in sales.  The big winner here is the female head of Cinnabon who has Taco Bell selling a not so sticky version of her delights in all their stores.  Taco Bell has a new coffee line and made sure that all their items can be held in one hand.  Do you think they are encouraging you to eat while you’re driving? Ssssh but sure. McDonald's is worried.  They even  offered free coffee during breakfast hours to its customers for about two weeks.  The giant offered a marketing blitz by putting on a concert in Times Square in Manhattan and organized a flash mob in Chicago to continue the buzz over McDonald’s breakfast products and take the attention away from Taco Bell.

The giant is worried because they know that traffic during the breakfast hours has been steadily increasing while the traffic during lunch and dinner hours has been declining year over year.  So why breakfast?  I think it is because it is the cheapest meal you can get outside of a  snack.  Consumers are still tight with their money after the recession.  All the fans food chains seem to be chasing after a piece of that breakfast pie.  Just weeks ago Dunkin Donuts revealed its new Eggs Benedict Sandwich.  Last month Starbucks came out with new items like its Egg and Cheddar Sandwich and its new and improved reduced fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.  The newest entry into the breakfast wars have healthy options too.  But Taco Bell is not going healthy by offering a 700 calorie Taco Crunch first thing in the morning.  Gosh I’m still burping.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

There is a reason why people still come to America.  It happens to be a great place to live.  This country can attract talented people from all over the world because it still is a land of opportunity.  You’ve heard it before but let me remind you as we walk in life with a very special man living here in America.  His life story can also be an inspiration for   all of you who face extreme disappointment in your life and feel like there’s no tomorrow.  Yet we don’t know what tomorrow will bring even if your   life   truly   turns to be disastrous, tomorrow can only be better.

Let’s talk about a guy who has created something truly different for the world.  It is a car called the Tesla.  If you try to compare the Tesla   Model   S to other cars, it is like   comparing   an   I Phone to a desk phone.  It can go from 0 to 60 in four seconds.  Tesla is just another idea from the amazing mind of   Elon Musk.  He is a 42 year old man who grew up   as a little boy dreaming up of fast cars and rocket ships.  He also had dreams of   colonizing Mars and saving the earth.  We all just dream this guy creates.

The Tesla Model S is powered by 7000 battery cells that is linked to an Electric Motor.  No engine.  No transmission and no tailpipe.  There is a waiting list for the car even though he makes 600 of them per week in a plant in Northern California.  Elon describes himself as an engineer who is interested in things that can change the world for the better in the future.  His electric car when mass produced will save the world from pollution from fossil fuels burning.  How is it even possible that he can build a new innovative car and build spaceships   from his company called Space X that can land on flames?

The car company can be the first successful American start up car company in 90 years.  He wanted to create a reasonable car that everyone can use other than a sluggish electric golf cart.  What is important to him is to reduce greenhouse gases that threatens the world.  His car can go 250 miles on a single charge.  He is also building a network of charging stations where the driver   pays   nothing for a fill up.  He hopes to make the stations solar powered.  We need a guy like this to make significant changes for   everyone in the world.

This car won the highest quality rating in the history of Consumer Report’s and has the government’s highest safety rating.  His fascination with technology began during his childhood in South Africa.  He was interested in computers at an early age.  By age 12 he wrote the software for a video game and sold it.  He realized   that super heroes and comic books were a product of the United States, the software   capital of the world. So, he followed the American dream and moved to this country.  He lived in his office in Silicon   Valley and invented a program that gave step by step directions between addresses that is used commonly today in cars and   phones.  In 1995 it was brand new and within four years he made $22,000,000.

Only in America do you have opportunities like this.  He went on to invent an online banking system called Pay Pall that he sold to E Bay for one and a half Billion dollars.  His   share   was $180,000,000 and invested it all in Tesla and Space X.  At the age of 37 he hit rock bottom.  His first rockets   failed to reach orbit and his early cars   had quality problems.  In 2008 he lost all his money developing these two companies and he was getting a divorce with five children to care for.  Yes life can be disastrous even for those who seem to have all the answers.  But there is always a tomorrow that we must look forward to.  He thought he would be suffering a nervous breakdown.

There is always a tomorrow and that date came when his fourth spaceship launch was successful later that year.  That success lifted   the darkness from his life.  Soon thereafter NASA called with a Billion and a   half   dollar contract to provide space travel to the space station.  America saved him financially and emotionally.  Two days later Tesla’s investors decided to pour in more money.  Within three days both companies we saved.  The rockets have not failed since and have docked many times with   the   space station bringing   it supplies.  They are currently fitting the rockets with seats preparing   it for manned missions.  Space X is also researching a rocket that can be reused by landing on a column of flames.  His dream for Space X is to eventually bring humanity to Mars.

He spends 3 days a week at Space X and two days a week at Tesla.  Weekends are spent at home with his five boys from his first marriage and his 22 year old second wife.  They were engaged for only two weeks and then married. Tesla stock has gone up nearly 500% not based on the amount of cars he is selling today but based on the hope that Tesla will create a car at 1/3 the price of their current car.  The entire bottom of the car is consumed by a giant battery that keeps the car expensive. In order to bring costs down he is inventing a smaller battery. A new 5 Billion dollar factory was built to create more lithium ion batteries   in the United States. The manufacturing plant will be larger than all the other plants combined. This dreamer is not afraid to dream big.  Skeptics have  spent  a lot of money hoping he will fail.  Others seem to give him more money even when he fails.  All we know is that without dreamers we would never have anything new.  Without  new  things, our  economy would crumble..  It is good to know that America is still the land of opportunity   where  it   welcomes dreamers and opportunity is thriving .  What do you dream about?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Malls were supposed to be a convenience.  A place where you can buy everything and anything you needed.  A place to meet friends and have lunch.  The place where your   kids can take a picture with Santa and then at the end of the day even see a movie.  Yes those were the days, the fantasy until reality set in.  Until the bad guys knew where the good guys were hanging out.  Then you heard the news stories.  The horrible news stories of crimes being committed at malls.
Soon people were getting robbed   in the parking lots.  People were getting shot up in the movie theaters.  Gangs of teenagers with nothing to do but annoy people and buy their drugs   were at the mall.  Children were   being abducted at the mall.  Housewives were being followed home raped and murdered after a day of shopping at the mall.  If you are lucky to survival all that horror you find out that there are hardly any employees in the stores and the few cashiers you can find are very bitter people who work  only on commission as in the Sears employees who do not even receive an hourly wage.

Well the consumers have had enough.  People have found elsewhere to buy their products.  And now all across America, malls are being torn down.  The malls used to be the place to go.  There was a time when everyone wanted to go to the mall.  For half a century the mall was the mecca for our   booming     economy.  America’s love affair with shopping malls began in 1956 when the nation’s first fully enclosed mall opened its doors in Minneapolis.  It was the most exciting period in our recent economy.  It was the most explosive growth anywhere on earth at any time in recent history.

From the early fifties throughout the 1970’s, the malls were immensely popular.  Robin Lewis is the author of the book called The New Rules of Retail.  In the book he explains in detail about the death of malls.  In the mid   fifties Dwight Eisenhower signed the interstate highway act that provided a significant change in people’s buying habits.  It was after World War II and people were making money and spending money again.  They bought new vehicles and tried them out on the new highways to the new malls.  No longer did they have to rely on the neighborhood stores.

They constructed 54,000 miles of interstate highways.  That provided such mobility that people began moving out of   the city’s into newly constructed suburbs.  It also afforded the ability to construct the regional malls.  Between 1956 and 2005, about 1500 malls were built including the largest mall ever called the mall of America   in Minnesota.  It is 14.2 million square feet long enclosing   120 stores, an   amusement park and even a wedding chapel.  You can meet your girl on a ride, buy her a ring and get married all in the same day at the same place.  Does that make Americans lazy or enterprising?

It was a golden age of shopping   which lasted until fairly recently when a new golden age of shopping has emerged courtesy of the Internet.  All of a sudden the consumer now has everything a retail store provided and more sizes and choices throughout the world literally at their fingertips in the safety and comfort of their homes.  No annoying teenagers, no shootings, no robbing and no abducting.  You now buy whenever you want in the safety of your home surrounded   by family and friends.  This is our new shopping   utopia.  You don’t even need the movie theater anymore, you bought your   big screen TV on the Internet too.  Some people   even find   their   girl on the Internet these days.

As a result of our   newest shopping habit that also frees us from the traffic jams on the interstate highways, malls across the nation are   empty   and even being torn down.  No new enclosed mall has been built since 2006.  In the book Robin Lewis predicts that nearly half of America’s malls will close within the next 10 years.  Technology is blooming in the commerce business that now people are making many purchases directly from their phones in their pocket.  It is   a new world now that is even more impersonal.

  You used to know the shop people in your local stores.  You used to   know   the people you met at the mall.  Now we know the UPS driver that will deliver all your stuff to your door.  I read that soon a drone will deliver your stuff and drop it   down from the sky.  Will anyone know anybody anymore?  But I will have stuff.  What is an American without their     stuff?  Who needs   stinking   people anyway?  I know one person that is doing well in a mall.  Does it count that   she owns an auction house where   people bring all their   stuff back to the mall?  She says the people stink and their stuff stinks too.  I think I’ll stay home today.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

 Let’s talk dating.  A special kind of dating.   I’m talking about considering dating an older woman.  They are usually very intelligent, very secure and willing to admit to just about anything.  This kind of woman has been there and has seen it all.  They know what they want and know   who they are.  It is now up to you to decide if that is what you want. Dates should be pretty easy.  They like to do daytime activities and want to have dinner at exactly 6:00.  By evening hours   they’ve had enough of you and are willing to end their day.  By 9:30 the young women are just starting to play.  I am not in this game and am pretty old myself.  How old would I have to go to date an   older   woman if I was inclined to do so?  At any age, anyone older than you I’m sure would still make you feel like some kind of stud.

Catherine Deneuve   is a movie star whose face   defines the word beauty.  She is an undisputed legend.  She   is now 70 years old.  Yes I am talking about an extremely older   woman who somehow is still a sexy beautiful classy lady.  Being French can only add to the romanticism.  The entire French language is based on puckering your lips.  Just saying,   jus suis   francoise,, I am French, is a puckering of her lips.  You youngsters who don’t know who she is can do some research and view some of the one hundred films she has appeared in over the past 57 years.  I know most of you only know Brad Pitt movies and Angelina Jolie movies that are played alternately whenever they have time to make another film.

In her early years she was known as the ice maiden.  Catherine was elegant, distant and reserved.  Yup probably hard to get.  Then she started making films packed with passion and some kinky sex.  Films  called Bill Du Jour or And All Seventy.  Her personal life was always interesting but never scandalous.  Love affairs with friends are rarely scandals and she had many friends.  Friends who she appeared in movies with.  Actors like Francois  Truffaut, or with Marcello Mastrionni.  And if you don’t know who these guys are, you are too young for this conversation.  Actually, I am a bit young for these movie stars too.

Her message was clear and is the same message from many   older   women today, “If you want me, you got to deserve me and if you do, welcome to paradise.” Wow!  That has to at   least   be intriguing.  Some have called her the   most beautiful woman in the world.  It can’t be easy living up to being called the most   beautiful   woman in the world . It can be a burden because you always have to live up to that expectation.  Her second film was called Ladies Man and of course she had   the leading role.  Her son was born when she was 19 years old.

Her .career was speeding toward stardom when one of her early films won the best prize at the Cannes film festival.  In 1965 she married photographer David Belli and during those years with him she flourished taking both risky and risqué roles.  She starred in a horror film called Repulsive directed by Roman Polanski.  At age 22 she was in theaters around the world.  Two years later she appeared as an elegant affluent woman who does tricks in the afternoon.  If  France is known for its cuisine, wine and women, then she represents the sexy, sophisticated French woman.

In 1971 she appeared for the first time with the Italian idol Marcello Mastrionni who became her lover and the father of her daughter.  They never married and their affair   lasted for four years.  See him in the classic film called La Douche  Vita.  In 1980 she won the equivalent of the French Oscar for the critically acclaimed   movie called The Last Metro directed by Francois Truffaut who was crushed after their affair ended. You might have to be a tormented man to go out with a stunning woman.  Nearing 50 years old she played an   unmarried plantation owner in 1992 in the movie called Indochino where she  raises  an orphan in China .    
She was awarded her first and only Oscar nomination for her   work in that movie.  I wish that there were   more movies made for older actresses who still look beautiful and know their craft well.  People like Catherine deserve to win Oscars.  Her latest film   had her playing a grandmother who was a former beauty queen.  If I could turn back the hands of time I would have loved to seen her work in more   American films perhaps with our handsome   hero, Cary Grant.  Was he possibly the one man she never had?   Could there be a secret to ageing  well besides growing up beautiful?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

. Words are so important in our lives.  They can invoke all sorts of emotion.  Love, hate, tears, joy and passion all can be conveyed through   words.  Choose your words carefully since there’s always someone to inspire or   someone   to   offend.  People are even   using the same word in   many   different parts of speech.  The word fuck is used randomly all the time in many different ways usually to   offend people.  I blame it all on the fact that people don’t read enough, don’t have a large enough   vocabulary to even make substitutions of that word adequately.

What about the stupid expression O.K. Is it a word at all?  Why can’t people just   say yes?  Well, the   word happens to be America’s most successful export and has been blown around freely in this country for about 175 years.  There is no other word that is widely recognized throughout the world.  No other   American word has succeeded like that.  Like what the F word has become, one reason for OK’s appeal is   its    versatility.  Above all,   it is an   adjective.  When you say, “This is okay.” But it is also a noun when you say, “I gave this in my OK.” It is also a verb,   “   I said it was okay” It is also an adverb, “She did it okay.” And it is also an interjection, “Okay!”

So just where did this word come from?  One theory is that it came from a Greek word OLA KALA   that means all good.  A recently famous OK   origin   story was featured in the recent 2012 Academy Award winning movie called Silver Linings Play Book where the leading actor says,” Martin Van Buren the eighth president of the United States used to  say you are OK because you were part of a club.” In reality in 1839 an abbreviation craze was sweeping America.  So OK was born meaning correct.  The earliest finding of the word OK in a dictionary was in the 1864 edition of the Slang Dictionary   of   Vulgar   Words.  Is the word OK as annoying as the F word being thrown around and the word like that also seems to be in every sentence of every person that has a hard time   expressing    themselves?

Which word is more annoying like or OK?  I find the word like   infinitely more annoying than OK because like is just a brain fart; a word to throw into   a sentence when you don’t even know what you are saying.  At least the word OK it is used as a form of mutual agreement.  Like in just a mediocre word.  At least OK was featured in a famous quote.  I’m OK you’re OK.  OK is emphatic, distinctive it is simple.  Americans don’t like to be complicated.  It is a way of life.  And they hate spelling long words.  So you can’t get much shorter than OK.  OK?  OK.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring is finally here. I can tell because the daffodils are desperately trying to raise their stems through the hard winter soil.  It is a magical time of year.  Everything that looks dry and dead begins to come to life again.  It is the time of the year when a hard circle of a thing called a bulb sprouts something   beautiful in vibrant colors and is literally a gift that will multiply and sprout for   you every year.  Yes, take the time to smell the flowers better yet watch them grow for you.

After a cold winter when   way back in September you were already cuddling and smuggling with your woman under the covers and spending the winter watching the magic of her body growing till   a beautiful baby pops out of her too just in time for spring.  It is the time of the year when you can   get out and feel the warmth of the sun on your face, stand in front of your flower garden and show off that beautiful baby you made.  It all sounds pretty perfect and not   really far beyond our reach.

Spring is a religious time of the year where   people   celebrate Easter or Passover.  They celebrate the story of their God overcoming oppression to a happy ending.  I prefer to celebrate nature and the here and now because that is what I am experiencing.  By planting a bulb in the fall or a flowering tree or a bush I am gifted by beauty beyond belief in the spring.  But paying more attention to you a woman in the winter, it is possible you will be gifted a   beautiful child in the spring.  Everything takes care and planning.  Everything good   in life need special attention.  It is worth the trouble.

In Philadelphia there is an event called flower week where the Philadelphia flower show is in full bloom.  It is one of the few shows where they encourage you to take as many pictures as you like.  This year   they  put  culture back into horticulture.  From the moment you enter this show, art surrounds you. Alexander Calder was their inspiration since he is known for his mobile work and a local artist from Philadelphia. They recreated art work this time made up from thousands of flowers finding the right   shades of color found in nature. To me that is a religion finding all the colors   nature provides especially at springtime.

10 acres of the Pennsylvania convention center has been transformed into a springtime wonderland.  These are professional exhibits jt  in the typical small garden.  I don’t care if you live in an apartment building, you can still have a window box that can thrive on the same sunlight and water that the big beautiful gardens have at their disposal.  It all started in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.  The Philadelphia flower show is the oldest in the world.  Today it attracts thousands and earns about a million dollars.  The show also holds a national competition.
This year the show’s designers paired up with museums from all over the country.  They looked at famous paintings and then transformed and created an inspired garden.  Entries competed in a number of categories.  It is like the Olympics of horticulture.  You are competing against the best in the industry and when you win here, you   become one of the best in the country.  During the competition judges are kept separate from visitors and noise is kept to a minimum something similar to a tennis match.  It is actually very serious business and some exhibits even come with   birds chirping and singing their songs for the total   actual effect.

Jamie Wyeth is a painter from Pennsylvania known for wildlife scenes.  The Wyeth family was known to emphasize the natural terrain of the area.  The judges judge on how many of your   senses are activated in the exhibits.  Yes they want to be able to smell the trees and flowers.  Designers, judges and visitors alike are   all amazed by the commitment creativity and craftsmanship on display.  But most of all it is all a tribute to the beauty of the ugly bulb that turns into an amazing flower in the spring.  Perhaps it is the bloom that helps us all to blossom in the spring.  It is  time to dust winter off our shoulders and have a renewed commitment to the land our  philosophy and to our families.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Criticism.  It seems that everyone is a critic.  We all have opinions and we all wish to express them.  There is nothing wrong with that and some people might think it’s healthy.  There are people who get paid well to be a critic. How do you   get those jobs?  Growing up there was a lot of tough talk on the playground.  Whenever someone would say something mean or   hurtful we would just shout   out, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me” and then the annoying person would just go away.  It seems some things were simpler then or at least somehow I   survived   those   days.

What do we remember anyway?  It seems that   we   remember   criticism a lot more vividly than some of the nice things people have said about us.  It becomes almost a vendetta.  We say to ourselves,” how dare they say that about me, I'll show them!” and then all of a sudden we have a quest to accomplish something.  Prove a point that before the criticism stayed in our mind was never thought about that much before we got   criticized.  Why do we act that way anyway?  Who cares what other people say or think?  The fact is that we do care and can affect us physically and mentally.
At every awards ceremony after thanking God the recipient of the award can be found giving a shout out lifting their trophy forward   while saying, “I dedicate this award to all the people who said I would never amount to anything and here I have an award saying I am the best!” yes we love to show some   payback after being criticized.  To some people it takes a lifetime to finally get that accolade that award.  But it can't be that criticism that becomes the   driving force for our   ambition.  Why are the unpleasant things so unforgettable?

Scientists call it negativity   bias.  The theory is that bad news makes a much   bigger   impact on our brain. Psychologist Rick Hanson PhD..    wrote   a book called Hardwiring Happiness.  His book deals with how we can beat our natural   negativity bias.  The problem is that   we have a brain that is really good at learning from our negative experiences.   It is bad at learning from relatively good experiences.  When people criticize others they don’t take into consideration the other person’s feelings.  They criticize with reckless abandonment.  We have all been criticized in our lives.  But we all don’t deal with criticism in the same way.

Scientists are also looking into how   negative comments can affect the brain. When someone says that you are horrible, that word horrible will stick in your   brain and haunt you.  There are at least two regions of your brain, the Amygdala and the Medial Prefrontal Cortex that work harder  when processing criticism and can keep the brain from doing much else.  It can become all consuming.  It literally effects you to your core.  Maybe that’s why pushing back becomes so much fun.  Not all criticism is bad.  Just look at those movie stars on the red carpet when they have to show up for their   awards.  Hopefully when they are picked upon everyone will agree that they are all so very talented and beautiful.  We all know that even the movie stars are criticized for what they wear and what they do.  Who they love and who they choose not to love.  When they go and where they don’t go.

I feel when it comes to sports people, they are paid   a lot of money for their abilities and for being a role model for younger people.  If they don’t behave well,  they deserve to be criticized.  That is the price you pay for fame.  Be glad that everyone knows your name.  And be proud of the image that people have of you.  Go out of your   way to avoid negative criticism because you are in the spotlight.  Bottom line find  ways to see the positive ways  into everything because you stay healthier if you a smiling and happy.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

We only have one life to live and we all know there is no turning back.  You only hope you can repair the messes you have made, learn from your mistakes and move on perhaps to even a better life.  Not many of us have that opportunity but when you hear of someone who has done that, changed   their life for the better, it is remarkable and worth talking about.  The real life greed depicted in the   Academy Award winning movie The Wolf of Wall Street in real life involved an important person in the foot wear   business.  The movie was about real life greed that continues in some part on Wall Street’s till today.

His name is Steve Madden and if your girl has any sense of style, she probably has a pair of his shoes in her   closet.  He doesn’t look like the ordinary shoe designer.  He looks like an ordinary hardworking husband even now as a very successful man.  His shoes are sold in nearly 60 countries and he enjoys to be part of every part of his business including weekly visits to his own New York stores.  He even knows the name of almost all his shoe styles.  Last year his company walked off with more than $1.3 billion in sales.

Women love his shoes because they are comfortable and very stylish.  From boots to sandals to   stilettos, Madden   designs many of his top selling shoes   in his factory in the New York City borough of Queens   not   far from where he grew up in a Long Island suburb.also a place near where I grew up.  As a teenager his first job was working in a shoe store.  He fell in love with the marriage of art and commerce.  In 1975 he went to college at the University of Miami and seemed to have majored in sun tanning and drugs and didn’t pass many classes.  He dropped out of college because his father refused to pay any more.  He was told to go get a job because he wasn’t taking school seriously and his father  wasn’t going to waste any more money paying for it.

With only about a grand in the bank he went back to working   in a shoe store again.  He started selling a clog he named The Marilyn and the shoe was an instant hit.  Within three years, Madden had opened his first store in New York’s trendy Soho.  Then more of   life’s mistakes happened. Greed crept into his soul.  In 1992 he went into business with Jordon Beaufort   the crooked stockbroker played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s film The Wolf of Wall Street. Jordon’s brokerage firm took Madden’s company public and artificially inflated its   stock   price.  They raised more money for him than he ever dreamed was possible.  In the beginning he thought   it was legitimate but then after   a while   he knew   something had to be crocked.  By then he was in too deep.

The price for his   greed was 31 months in prison.  A sentence Madden began serving in 2002.  It may have been the best thing that ever happened to him.  Yes we only have one life but it is a long life where many things can change.  While being locked up, Madden grew close to one of his employees Wendy who visited him regularly and they began holding hands, then kissing, then writing love letters.  All behaviors that never happened in their working relationship before he went to prison.  She made his time in prison better and gave him something to look forward to.  The excitement built as their heart beats raced as they counted down the months to his freedom.  They married immediately after his release and now they’re blessed with three children.  Madden has a life now surrounded by love that he probably would not have had if he did not go to prison.  Wealthy   single men rarely settle down to   a wife and kids.

He was able to go right back into his business because customers   don’t care if you’ve gone to prison, they still want great shoes.  Now he feels a greater purpose to his life.  It is no longer about making as much money as you can.  Life is about giving back.  It is about devotion to his wife and children and to his customers.  At age 56, Steve Madden has gone full circle.  He no longer   hobnobs with trendy stockbrokers but hangs out with his kids.  He is   still very busy being   a famous designer and a hands on businessman.  Madden is kicking up his heels.  Steve admits that he is sorry that   he had been so foolish to break the law however he realizes that without   going to prison, he  never would have gotten close to the woman who now is his wife and had his kids.  He loves what he does and is grateful that he has been given a second chance at life.

Yeah this was a warped feel good story, but I am a whim and I like good love stories every now and then.  What is important is that whatever God that you believe in, he or she or it never lets us see one moment into our future but our   past can haunt us forever. So look   forward to your future.  It may surprise you despite the foolishness you do today, the price you pay tomorrow, for perhaps something good in the long run.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In poker a full house   is   a good hand to be holding.  In the theater world, a   full house is one where every seat   is filled. In everyday life a full house is one that is packed with   so much stuff,   you   can   hardly move and there isn’t much room for people.  Usually the people that depend on having lots of stuff around them don’t have many friends around them.  They seek comfort in   their belongings and quite frankly do not have the time to even   organize   them.  Their junk   becomes a work in progress that really never gets tended to.  It is not fine   if others come in to help touch their stuff for fear that the strangers will simply throw out something of value or something sentimental.  You   are   looking at someone   defined by one word. Hoarder
There are millions of people who hoard things they have accumulated for years.  It is estimated that up to 5% of the United States population has the problem of hoarding.  Yes anything you do to   an   excess is considered a problem.  The hoarding   problem is equal to men and women.  A new poll found out   that a third of all   Americans admit they have too much clutter in their homes.   4% of people say   things are just fine and 12% people say that they don’t have enough stuff.  This subject of hoarding has become so sensational that there   have been many reality TV shows finding success in discovering hoarders.

Beyond the spectacle of the events hoarding has now been diagnosed as a mental condition.  Earlier this year for   the very first time, The Diagnostics statistical Manual of mental disorders essentially the handbook   for mental health experts recognized hoarding   as a specific disorder.  The formal definition is someone who has difficulty   getting rid of or letting go of possessions.  Two major components of the disorder are that you accumulate way too much more than you need and   you have a hard time saying goodbye to your things.  There is a   third   component to the disorder that is equally important and that is the inability to keep it organized.

There is a book out there called Stuff by   Randy Frost   which offers   a less clinical view on this subject of hoarding.  He has been studying and writing about hoarding since 1990.  The public has been fascinated by dramatic stories on the subject. Back in 1947 for example, there was a story about two brothers who were descendants of a wealthy family that made headlines that their dead bodies were   found in their town house that was filled with stuff.  No scientific research was done on hoarding until about 20 years ago.  Now you can find plenty of people that have homes full of plenty of stuff.  There is a whole storage industry that has popped up where you can put more stuff in these containers that you can rent.
You can rent stuff and buy and sell stuff on places like E Bay.  Randy Frost’s   observations have revealed some key findings.  Hoarding   affects   people across the whole economic spectrum.  There is even evidence that hoarding may even   be inherited.  Also that a significant number of hoarders suffer from   depression and the region of the brain   that determines the importance of   objects shows abnormal activity when hoarders are faced   when making decisions about   dealing with their belongings.  The cut off where you will   find   a sloppy and disorganized person to a mentally disabled hoarder is when the quality of their   own life diminished to a point when they cannot conduct every day duties because of all the stuff around them.

There are companies that clean up and help hoarders get rid of their stuff but that may not really address the root of the problem.  It might be just   making more room for more stuff.  So there are support groups now for people who need to discuss their habits and recognize what they are doing, discuss the reasons for keeping all their   stuff and finally gaining the ability to let go and say goodbye.  They need to establish very specific weekly goals.  Even if it requires tidying up a very small area.  There are always people who do not have success and still have their meals sitting on top of their mail.  Groups are good to be able to discuss the why they   do these things.  When all the stuff around you becomes   suffocating, you know it is then time to seek help or to do something about the problem.

Like with any other addiction, you have to make the choice to change with visible results.  Words mean nothing unless you prove your words   in your actions.  Impulses will always be there but it is important to realize how you deal with your impulses and curb them.  The urge to hoard is probably a lifelong struggle. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Environmentalists talk about saving the country all the time.  They go global and talk about saving the earth.  But few of them talk about over- population.  Yes there are too many damn people in the world overtaking our natural resources, ruining land and creating urban wastelands.  Where did all the people go that used to live in Detroit that has become   130 acres of urban wasteland?  I’ve heard of survival   of the fittest but the human species is beyond survival, there are so many of us that we are changing the entire ecosystem of the world.

I just read a book called Countdown Our   Last   Best Hope for Our Future on Earth by Alan Weisman which goes in depth about the problem with overpopulation.  It is about time that environmentalists attacked humans as the major source of all our   environmental problems.  It is an uncomfortable topic because how do you tell someone that their   existence is ruining the world?  Ignorant humans are ruining   the world.  There is an old movie called Idiotrocracy staring   Maya Rudolph and Luke Wilson about the future where idiots   run ramped and run the world.  The more times I see this movie,   I see how all the antics   are   coming true.

It is the humans that created all the environmental nightmares.  We are responsible for the creation of things that protect our species.  Humans invented medication, sanitation pasteurization all in an effort for us to be able to live longer and be healthy enough to make even more babies.  When you fly over the country we can see vast   areas   of wide open spaces and for a moment you say to yourself, well there is plenty of room for people when in fact most of that land is being used as grain fields.  Now 40% of the earth is being used to feed one species,   our   own.

That is an imbalance with nature.  As a result we are pushing other   species   off   the planet into extinction. Americans are the worst offenders against the environment.  We consume most of nature’s resources.  There are about seven billion people living on earth today.  Only about a century ago there were two billion people on earth.  How many people can this planet sustain?  We reached the first 1,000,000,000 when all the medical discoveries went into effect in the 20Th century.  The population quadrupled   when we learned how to produce more food.  First by the creation of nitrogen fertilizer that helped make more food. Without nitrogen fertilizer 40% of us wouldn’t even be here.

However, we have learned that nitrogen fertilizer is also polluting our oceans and waterways and sterilizing our soils and all our crops are being force fed with all this chemistry. I   am   not suggesting that we kill off a few billion people   to create an ecological balance but in essence that is frankly what the earth needs. Even with our abundance   of food made for humans, there are about 16,000 children that die of starvation every day.  Believe it or not, the United Nations has   decided   that   Muslim countries have one   of the best family planning programs in history.  Iran   has now made birth control free and available to all its citizens.  They now also encourage women to stay in school, educate them to get jobs instead of being home raising children.

It is a known fact that educated people do not have a lot of children.  In the movie I mentioned, there are scenes where they describe the educated woman who spent all her time in school that by the time she decided to have children, the eggs were old and she wasn’t able to have children. The uneducated people were having large families and soon the earth was populated with all stupid people who did not know how to do anything and soon destroyed the earth.  It is obvious that we need a balance.  Education is the best contraceptive.  Educated people do not have a lot of kids.  What is even more interesting is that   educated people usually earn more money and can afford to pay to raise more children and ease the burden from welfare and food stamps and other child care subsidies.

The United States encourages procreation.  We give a tax credit if you have children.  We enjoyed the dysfunctional family the Duggars then proudly put their whole family of 19 children on display to all Americans as some sort of accomplishment in life.  Italy has one of the lowest birth rates on the planet because they had the highest level of female education on the planet with morel women with graduate degrees.  Now 60% of students in universities are women.  So we should see a downfall in the world population and a more educated population.  Hopefully education and birth control will solve the problem.  I personally think it is too much of a task to put on women alone but such is the case.

Monday, March 31, 2014

It is rare that you meet an overachiever.  It is even more amazing that the person is under 10 years old in a world where there aren’t enough good role models for young people. We need to resurrect the 50 or so old movies belonging to Shirley Temple showing her immense talent as a very   young girl.  She was a perfect Annie before the musical was ever made.  She was a leading lady who danced and sang   and memorized enough lines that any leading lady could do in a movie.  The only thing close to her age group is that ridiculous Honey Boo Boo   child  who can only fart  regularly for laughs.  What’s worse is that kids like Honey are shown on the TLC channel that stands for the Learning Channel where   kids today can only learn how to behave badly.

Who else do we have?  Lindsay Lohan was a talented kid who grew up to be the poster child for girls gone wild.  Then there is Justin Beaver who was a cute boy who now can’t pose for a picture without druggie looking eyes.  At least Shirley Temple after making so many movies as a child grow up to be a fine young woman. She got married, had children and then had a immense career representing America in various places around the world as America’s Ambassador.  She even managed to live a long life till 85 years old.  I might call her an over achiever but she didn’t over anything.  She seems to have accomplished everything anyone could want in life.

So drag out her   old movies and dust them off. Colorize them if you have to even make JZ rewrite the music like he did in the Gatsby movie.  Most of all get her   achievements   off   the old movie channels and put her somewhere anyone can find her.  She is the child we all wish we were and the child we all wish we had.  Most importantly she was the performer that was best at cheering us up.  Shirley   wasn’t only the biggest child actress of the 1930s, she   was   the   biggest   star of the time.  No other    person   appeared   in over   50 films by the time she was 10 years old.

She was cast as an orphan or other unfortunate child.  She could move people with her tears and with laughs.  She was a singer who made any song her own long before American Idol was around telling all their courageous singers to make songs   their   own.  Shirley   was a dancer who knew every step that any adult knew including dancing with the black tap dancer Bill Bo jangles Robinson.  Not only did she tear up the dance floor, she helped in tearing down the color bias in Hollywood.  Before   this little girl had danced all over the   stage, black and white people did not perform together in the movies.

Her smile and good cheer kept   America’s   spirits up through   the worst of the depression.  As long as we have Shirley Temple, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, we will be all right.  As a teenager, her  home  box office appeal faded.  She retired   from films at the age of 22.  She devoted her time to raising a family and married Charles Black. She then took his name professionally and called herself Shirley Black.  Not too many women do that these days.  After she raised her children, she enjoyed a new career as a diplomat. 

First like Angelina Jolie she became a delegate to the United Nations and then as U.S. ambassador to Ghana.  Then an ambassador to Czechoslovakia putting her past fame to good use.  Weather as a child actress or diplomat,   Shirley   Temple   always managed to open doors and hearts.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

 You think you know a lot and you find that you don’t know much.  There are so many new places to explore that you   never even knew existed.  Then you find out they’ve been around for centuries just to make you feel more stupid.  My newest fascination is with   Azulejos.  No the word  is not a gross typo error but is the name for a type of people that lived in Portugal centuries ago and left their legacy etched in ceramic tile. So, who cares? Well,   I care and wonder how our generation will make its   mark in history with nothing etched in a tablet or on tile. All our generation’s gifts to the world is etched in a computer. God bless the electric cord and a power station. When that is gone so are we from history.

Azulejos is the Portuguese name for a kind of art that speaks to everyone regardless of language or location.  If there is anything that says Portugal, it is the tiles you see on the buildings there.  It is the absolute pinnacle of the essence of tiles.  I am not talking about those white things you see on the wall in your bathroom.  The tiles are essentially the same but way different.  If you have the chance to go to a magical place, go to Portugal and see the magic of a storybook town where every wall is a work of washable art.  I don’t know why you don’t see more of this stuff in all   parts   of the world? 

What makes the place even more magical is that the tiles are everywhere.  Beauty hidden inside palaces but then also placed as part of the brickwork on ordinary buildings in the streets making them look quite extraordinary.  Even the subways are adorned with lots of tiles.  Like a horror movie, if you   hated ceramic tiles, there seems to be no way to get away from them in this part of the world.  In fact the area is nicknamed the land of gold over blue.  If you are a photographer or just a person who likes to take pictures, this is the place for you.  Everything seems to be interesting here.

The Portuguese like to tell you that tiles are practical.  Much more practical than paint.  Tiles can last for centuries and require little or no maintenance.  Spend just one day in Portugal and you know it’s not about practical, these things are works of art.  Many of the buildings there go back to the 1850's with the art work still looking brand new on the outside of the buildings.  It is not unusual that many buildings have been owned with original businesses that go back for five generations. Azulejos is a word that is thought to have come from Arabic which makes sense since the Muslims originally from Africa occupied Portugal and Spain for more than 300 years and left their culture and art behind. 

There is an ancient national palace north of Lisbon in a town called Sintra that served as the summer residence to Portugal’s kings for nearly 800 years.  This place puts the caveman’s   drawings to shame.  Each room is a pictorial history etched in tile.  There are relief motif tiles that at first they had purchased from Spain but by the 17Th century they were making their own. By the 18Th century they had learned from the Dutch to get that blue delft look.  Soon Portuguese   tiles went from geometric patterns to works of fine art.  There were huge blue and   white panels telling stories of battles and beautiful landscapes that look more like tapestries or paintings.

In Portugal you can still purchase tiles made the old fashioned way by hand painted by artists who actually draw art for a living as a 9 to 5 job.  In 1755 a huge tragedy happened that changed everything.   An earthquake followed by a tsunami destroyed Lisbon.  One of the only surviving records of the city before the tragedy is a blue and white tiled panel 75 feet long which is now the priceless   possession   of   Lisbon’s National Tile Museum.  The new Lisbon   was rebuilt very quickly and the people did not forget their tradition of artistic tiles inside and out. By the 1800s the elaborate tiles became fashionable again.

Now tiles are mass produced and the artwork is quite modern.  Murals and billboards are still done in tile.  Even signs for businesses are creatively drawn in tile.  You would think this is normal if you do not come from anywhere else in the world where none of this is done.  I don’t think there is another country that even has a National Tile Museum.  It just shows the pride that these people have in their craft.  Take the subway there to see the thematic walls of even Marvel comic superheroes   like superman doing their daring stunts.  Why do we have plain white tiles everywhere?  It would have made working in the New York City subways a lot more interesting for me when I   worked   as a transit cop for years.

Ask   any one   you   know who has painted something in a ceramic shop that the mystery of your creation is not revealed until after you fire it in the kiln.  After it is baked, the colors come to life and if you are really bad at it your fingerprints will be revealed and preserved for   a   really   long   time.  I love a place where fantasy can become a reality.  Where fun is taken seriously.  As usual we have much to be learned from our past.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cancer.  It seems to have been around forever.  Too many people die from cancer.  Even the healthy ones die from cancer.  It seems that billions of dollars have been poured into cancer research and still too many people die from the disease.  It is almost as bad as Jerry Lewis’s telethon that went on each year to support research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy.  Each year he would collect millions of dollars from seemingly everybody to donate any amount of money any he collected multi millions of dollars every year for that cause.  All they ever accomplished was getting a faster wheelchair for people suffering from that disease.

With cancer, the treatments are very evasive and then you die.  I understand that patience is all that we have.  Hope for cures is our dream.  But did you know that it has been 43 years since President Nixon signed   legislation in   effect   declaring   war on Cancer?  It is similar to the terrorist situation.  How do you declare war on something that doesn’t wear a uniform and   something   you are   not quite sure where it comes   from.   We are barely one step ahead of the terrorist and seemingly two steps behind cancer.  Despite progress on many fronts the war wages on full force. There was 600,000 fatalities in this country last year alone.  We are losing the battle to cancer.

There is a promising new weapon coming from a tiny creature with a  life span so short it is somehow helping in the science of genetics.  There are persist anti  cancer patients who refuse to give up and wait to die after all conventional treatments have failed to save their lives.  They are usually the healthy  people who still get the deadly disease anyway.  They have the courage  to seek the unconventional treatments.  The   newest weapon in the battle against cancer is the fruit fly.  I kid you not.  I remember having   to have to count those little bastards in my Biology 101 class in college.  Those were the days when I thought I would have the stomach to be a doctor of medicine.

This new weapon is to genetically engineer a fruit fly with your cancer in it. An experiment with every possible drug imaginable to find the perfect   cocktail to cure your illness.  It is a lofty goal for the lowly fruit fly.  In the fight for cancer treatments will this new unconventional approach be the answer?  Who knows.  This is a war we haven’t finished fighting yet.  The  people who have been battling cancer and had been resistant to standard treatments hope this new thing will work.  Many people have gone through radiation and chemotherapy and at  the end of the day they die.  Well this  pattern has to stop.

When the bill was signed in 1971 there were actually Congressmen who were predicting that there would be an end to Cancer by the Bicentennial in 1976.  We haven’t even come close to finding the end to cancer says the American cancer society’s chief medical officer, Doctor Otis Brawly.  Cancer is still the number two killer of people in the United States only  out ranked by cardiovascular disease.  Over the next decade or so  they predict that cancer  will become the number one disease.  It was the number one killer in 1971. There is some good news though, since 1991 breast cancer deaths are down 35%.  So are deaths from collo-rectal cancer.  That is thanks largely to  screening not to any miracle cure.  The biggest promise now is it's so called personalized care.  It is based on the finding that the genetic mutations causing the cancer vary   from person to person.  In this way they can target   what’s causing the cancer and blast it with   whenever they got.

It is a fruit fly geneticists that is now creating the first personalized fruit fly to be used in research.  Using the now cancerous fly, they try thousands of drug combinations to see if the cancer goes away.  What is different is that they can approach the cancer with a kind of recklessness.  If their newest cocktail doesn’t work they can simply try again and not have to worry about further damage to the patient.  They throw any FDA approved drugs  at the fly as well as other cancer drugs to see what happens.  There now exists the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapeutics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It  has taken genetic doctors from just doing laboratory experiments to be dealing with individuals.

The new center is bound to help many people. It has to. These are people who have already tried conventional treatments.  So the battle forges on even though  President Nixon has died as well.