In an Over-Communicated, Intrusive World, Simple is Better
Ed

Musings by Ed Bagley

 

On Tolerance:
The English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) once remarked that tolerance is the virtue of people who do not believe in anything; consequently, the have no standards by which to judge, which means they can be endlessly “ tolerant”. Within any given society or culture, the majority can, in fact, be wrong. Ergo, “Right is still right if nobody is right, and wrong is still wrong if everybody is wrong.” An act’s rightness or wrongness does not depend upon the number of its supporters. Acts that are popular or even laws passed by a legislature are not necessarily moral or ethical, not to mention fair.

On Your Potential:
It is possible that you are squandering your ability to develop your potential by spending too much time mooning over what is not right with your life rather than using that same energy to take action to achieve what you want to happen. To do so you must first decide who you are, what it is you want, and why you are here. Once you answer those questions for yourself, you will naturally gravitate toward becoming the person you are, you want to be, and what you are going to do with the rest of your life. Along the way, you will be feeding your passion rather than trying to discover your passion on an ever ending journey to despair.

On Personal Growth:
There is a huge difference between “professional growth” and “personal growth”. Do you know the difference? Virtually all successful people have professional growth. Professional growth is getting more education (a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree), or successfully completing a training course in some specific skill (an apprentice carpenter becoming a journyman carpenter). Personal growth is totally different because personal growth requires you to change your thought process and belief system. Of every 100 people who could benefit from personal growth, only 10 at most would even attempt to develop personal growth, and, of those 10, only 1 will achieve personal growth because it is so difficult to achieve on your own without professional help of some kind. The one percent of people who achieve personal growth could be called “1 percenters”.
The 1 percenters may be 99% ahead of those who do nothing to change their thought process and belief system.

Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon” Part 2 – The 7 Cures for a Lean Wallet and The 5 Laws of Money

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Part 1 of this 2 Part series ends the synopsis of George Clason’s book “The Richest Man in Babylon,” but Clason raises an important question: Why should
so few men be able to acquire so much gold?

The answer is because they know how.

One may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability.

And so it was that the good king of Babylon sought out the richest man in Babylon to teach to others in his kingdom the secrets of his success.

This is a synopsis of what the richest man taught to the people
of Babylon:

The Seven Cures for a Lean Wallet

1) Start your wallet to fattening. Save one-tenth of all you earn. Remember that a part
of all I earn is mine to keep. Do this faithfully. Do not let the simplicity of this escape you.

When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings,
I got along just as well.
I was not shorter than before, and, money came to me more easily than before.

2) Control your expenses. How is it that all do not earn the same yet all have lean wallets? Here is the truth: That which each of us calls our “necessary expenses” will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to
the contrary.

Confuse not necessary expenses with desires. We all have more desires than our earnings can gratify. Examine which of the accepted expenses of living can be reduced or eliminated. Let your motto be 100% of appreciated value demanded for every dollar spent.

Budget your expenses so that your actual necessities are met without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings.

3) Make your money multiply. Protect your growing treasure by putting it to labor and increasing. Money in your wallet earns nothing. Money that we earn from our money is but a start; it is the earnings generating earnings that builds fortunes.

When the richest man in Babylon loaned money to the shield maker to buy bronze, he said this: “Each time I loaned money to the shield maker, I loaned back also the rental he had paid me. Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased.”

4) Guard your money from loss. Everyone has an idea of how to make quick money; few, however, have the evidence of making money to justify their idea, scheme or offer of quick riches. The first sound principle of investment is security for your principal.

Before you loan your money to any man assure yourself of his ability to repay your loan, and of his reputation to do so. Make no one a present of your hard-earned treasure.

Consult the wisdom of those experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is often freely given for
the asking, and may possess more value than the amount you
are about to invest.

5) Make your home a profitable investment. When you can set aside only nine-tenths of what you earn to live, and can use a part of that nine-tenths to improve the investment in your housing, do it; owning your own home is also an investment that grows with your wealth.

Your family deserves a home they can enjoy and call their own. It builds a sense of stability and well-being.

6) Ensure a future income. Build income-producing assets that do not require you to work forever. We will all grow old and die.

You should prepare a suitable income for the days to come when you are no longer younger and cannot work as hard, and to make preparations for your family should you no longer be with them to comfort and support them. Provide in advance for the needs of your growing age, and the protection of your family.

7) Increase your
ability to earn.
Desire precedes accomplishment, and the desire must be strong and definite. When you have backed your desire for saving $1,000 with the strength and purpose to secure it, you can then save $2,000.

Desires must be simple and definite. Desires defeat their own purpose when they are too many, too confusing, or too difficult to accomplish. Cultivate your own powers to study and become wiser, more skillful, and more productive.

Here is more sage advice from Clason’s masterpiece on financial matters:

The 5 Laws of Money

If you had to choose, would you choose tons of money or wisdom? Most men would take the money, ignore the wisdom, and waste the money. Here is the wisdom:

1) Money comes gladly and in increasing quantities to any man who will put aside not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and the future of his family.

2) Money labors diligently and contently for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying unto itself in infinity if kept working diligently. Money multiplies itself in surprising fashion.

3) Money clings to
the protection of the cautious owner who invests it with the advice of men wise
in its handling.

4) Money slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes that he is not familiar with, or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep. The inexperienced handler of money who trusts his own judgment, and puts his money in investments which he is not familiar, always pays with his money for his experience.

5) Money flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings, or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers, or who
trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

Here is the hard lesson of the 5 Laws of Money: You cannot measure the value of wisdom in bags of money. Without wisdom, those who have it quickly lose money, but with wisdom, money can be secured by those who have it not.

This ends the condensation.

edbagley

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Copyright © 2021 by Ed Bagley 

There are at least 61 million incidents of why the legitimacy of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v. Wade in 1973 should be struck down and reversed.

The screams of the 61 million fetuses already killed were never heard as they were deliberately executed in the womb of the mother and, if surviving to actual birth, they were killed in the operating room before being blessed with the
gift of life.

Think for a moment about what is happening in this process and the carnage it is creating in our society, and the eventual impact it is having on our hearts, minds and souls.

The victim in this process is not only the unborn child, but also the mother who permitted it to happen, the father who helped create the child, his or her brothers and sisters, their potential grandparents, all living relatives, and all future generations of children who will have lost a companion and what the unborn child might have meant to the advancement of mankind, peace and harmony among our fellow living inhabitants who currently benefit from the gift of life.

Please do not be confused about thinking that life is not a gift. Life is a perfect gift that we cannot create on our own. Science has given us a better understanding and appreciation for the world we live in, but science cannot give us a living, breathing child. It is not only foolish but ignorant to think that we can plant a seed in the ground and a child will eventually arise from the soil.

Scientists cannot create sperm and an egg from nothing and produce a child. Without sperm and an egg, scientists are dead in the water before they ever start on the process involved.   

While it is a generally accepted idea in civilized societies that killing someone is unacceptable if we are to coexist together; the chilling practice of Roe v. Wade allows a mother to kill her child rather than carry the child to term, let the child live, and raise the child as a mother. Citizens who murder another person after birth, who get caught and are tried in court and convicted, serve time in jail for their punishment. Roe v. Wade makes the deliberate killing of a child by abortion legal.

Roe v. Wade became a landmark decision when
7 of the 9 Justices at the United States Supreme Court created a majority decision to enact
Roe v. Wade into law.  

It is important to note that the governmental system of the United States of America is not a pure democracy—that is, rule by majority vote of its citizens who are registered to vote and vote during legal elections—but rather a constitutional system governed by the rule of law. The Constitution of the United States is the glue that holds the fabric of our system together with the help of the Bill of Rights, providing freedom and equality to its citizens who adhere to the laws of the land. Our judicial system provides the mechanism to make it work. At the top of our system of justice is the United States Supreme Court.

In the case of Roe v. Wade, 7 of the 9 Justices ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution provided a “right to privacy” that protected a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and therein lies the rub.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to African Americans and slaves who had been emancipated after the American Civil War, and included three major provisions: The Citizenship Clause, granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”, the Due Process Clause declaring that states may not deny any person “life, liberty or property” without Due Process of Law.

The 7 Justices that went along with this idea included Chief Justice Warren Burger, and Associate Justices Harry Blackmun, William Douglas, William Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis Powell. The 2 dissenting Justices included William Rehnquist and Byron White.  

The result of what the 7 concurring Justices were saying implied that women have more rights than an unborn child, more rights than men, husbands, parents, grandparents, and all living relatives. And, that women not only have more rights, but also have more special rights than anyone else on the face of the Earth. And, of course, that an unborn child in the mother’s womb has no rights whatsoever; that the unborn child can be killed at will by a decision of the mother without any other consideration whatsoever for the welfare of the child.

Therefore, what the father, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents or any other living relative might think merits no consideration whatsoever.  

No one, of course, is even asking what God might think. If you have no spiritual development whatsoever, you could care less. You may even think there is no such thing as a God, and that we humans are in a long line of evolution descending from apes, who some scientists have determined have 96 percent of the same genes as humans.

And, and what? These are the same scientists who, if asked to create a tree from scratch, with no seed already in existence to plant, could not create a tree from scratch on their best day as a scientist, or if their life depended upon it.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was probably not the first person to point out that  “every perfect gift comes from God”. God, in the Christian faith, and more especially the Catholic faith, includes the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.

Science and human nature aside, what does God have to say about killing? One of the Ten Commandments says: “Thou shall not kill”.  The commandment cannot be said simpler with the same meaning.

This Commandment of God does not hedge. It does not say, “Thou shall not kill, except for unborn babies”.  The gift of life is a perfect gift from God. In life, we can be faced with an enemy trying to kill us, and we kill so we, or our family, will not be killed. To be certain, killing is never a positive activity. Only sorrow comes from killing; the victim will likely leave behind a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, or a partner on the battlefield.

Why a majority of Supreme Court Justices would think that killing an unborn, defenseless fetus in the womb who will, without hindering, become a live, breathing human being at birth, is beyond common sense, not to mention an offense against humanity and the sanctity of life. It could be noted that, at the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, all the Supreme Court Justices were men.

Do mothers, who decide to kill their baby, realize and appreciate the fact that they would not be alive to reproduce if their mother decided to abort them?

No one in a polite, educated society wants to hear about killing babies. People who believe abortion is a personal right of a woman lay away nights trying to describe the process in more acceptable terms, such as: reproductive freedom, a woman’s right to control her own body, terminating a pregnancy, freedom of choice, a woman’s own private medical decision, a procedure, access to health care, family planning, and choice; anything but the raw truth: killing, which does not make it any less permanent for the unborn child and victim.

Those who would deny or doubt the existence of God are in a long of people who are “pro choice” rather than “pro life’. It would almost be impossible to calculate the arrogance and self-righteousness of women and organizations that promote abortion. Only God has an accurate take on that.

Without spiritual development and belief in God, it is hard to appreciate and understand God’s three greatest gifts for us; 1) The gift of life, 2) The gift of free will to do as we please, and 3) The gift of faith.

We could be reminded that God is not pleased about killing unborn babies, primarily because He is the creator of the life we enjoy.

For women who decide that abortion is an answer to whatever issues they feel will complicate their life, there is forgiveness when they experience remorse over their action. God is a forgiving God, and a woman who is remorseful over her decision to abort her child will be forgiven by God if she recognizes her wrongdoing and asks God for forgiveness.

God is a merciful God and understands that no human in His creation is without sin. All humans are sinners because we are not God. The good news is that we can be forgiven when we experience remorse, and ask God for forgiveness.

It is interesting to note that only 1 in 50 babies born worldwide are born in a free country that is the United States of America. There is no other county with another system of government—like socialism, democratic socialism, communism, fascism or any other ism or dictatorship—more free and offering more opportunity to succeed than the United States of America.

It is a shame that we can kill 61+ million unborn babies and claim to think we are as humane as we think we are. We are not that humane, but neither is any other country on the face of the Earth. We could do better, and we could start by reversing Roe v. Wade.

Zig Ziglar was an American author and motivational speaker. In the 1950s, as a salesman, he began giving sales-training
talks and about 20 years later he launched
his own business to offer training in sales
and personal development.

Here are some of Zig Ziglar’s best quotes:

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days.”

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.”

“If you go out looking for friends, you’re going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” “Many marriages would be better if the husband and wife clearly understood that they’re on the same side.”

“You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.”

“The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you think you can only do a little.”

“Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker.”

“The more you are grateful for what you have the more you will have to be grateful for.”

“Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.”

“Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission.”

“Some of us learn from other people’s mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people.”

“FEAR has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.”

“Motivation gets you going and habit gets you there.”

“Go as far as you can see and you will see further.”

“When you are tough on yourself, life is going to be infinitely easier on you.”

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt

“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.”

Albert Einstein

“Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do.”

John Wooden

“No one is perfect, that’s why pencils have erasers.”

Wolfgang Riebe

“Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve done before.”

Bonnie Blair

“Nothing is particularly hard if you break it down into small jobs.”

Henry Ford

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Spiderman

“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.”

Walt Disney

“Be silly, be honest, be kind.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference in the world.”

Roy T. Bennett

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.”

Hans Christen Andersen

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain

“It is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.”

George Burns

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Just keep swimming.”

Dory, Finding Nemo

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.”

Josie Bisset

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”

Anthony J. D’Angelo

“Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re brave enough to be yourself.”

Luna Lovegood

“Always keep a positive mindset; it will improve your outlook on the world.”

Roald Dahl

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”

Dalai Lama

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, he turned into a butterfly.”

Proverb

“Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.”

Nina Dobrev

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”

Sheryl Sandberg

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Dr. Seuss

by jrouam

There was a grandfather, and his little grandson often came in the evenings to sit at his knee and ask the many questions that children ask. One day the grandson came to his grandfather with
a look of anger on his face.  Grandfather said, “Come, sit, tell me what has happened today.”

The child sat and leaned his chin on his Grandfather’s knee. Looking up into the wrinkled, nut brown face and the kind dark eyes; the child’s anger turned to quiet tears.

The boy said, “I went to the town today with my father, to trade furs he has collected over the past several months. I was happy to go, because father said that since I had helped him with the trapping, I could get something for me. Something I wanted. I was so excited to be in the trading post, I have not been there before.

I looked at many things and finally found a metal knife! It was small, but a good size for me, so father got it for me.” Here the boy laid his head against his grandfather’s knee and became silent.

The Grandfather, softly placed his hand on the boy’s raven hair and said, “and then what happened?”

Without lifting his head, the boy said, “I went outside to wait for father, and to admire my new knife in the sunlight. Some town boys came by and saw me, they got all around me and starting saying bad things. They called me dirty and stupid and said that I should not have such a fine knife.

The largest of these boys, pushed me back and
I fell over one of the other boys. I dropped my knife and one of them snatched it up and they all ran away, laughing. “Here the boy’s anger returned, “I hate them, I hate them all!”

The Grandfather, with eyes that have seen too much, lifted his grandson’s face so his eyes looked into the boys. Grandfather said, “Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.

I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, one is white and one is black.  The white wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. But will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But, the black wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason.

He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes, and asked, “Which one wins Grandfather?” The Grandfather, smiled and said, “The one
I feed.”

The world is full of people who will try to get something they do not deserve—often, money they haven’t earned. Here is wisdom that recognizes the false claims of greed. Various versions of this tale are told throughout Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world.

A poor traveler stopped at midday to rest in the shade of a spreading tree. He had journeyed far and had only a single piece of bread left for his lunch. But across the road stood a stall where a baker sold rich pastries and cakes, and the traveler enjoyed inhaling the fragrances wafting across the way while he munched on his thin, stale morsel.

When he rose to continue his journey, the baker suddenly ran across the road and seized him by the collar.

“Just a minute!” the baker cried. ”You must pay me for my cakes!”

“What do you mean?” the startled traveler protested. “I haven’t touched your cakes.”

“You thief!” the baker shouted “It’s perfectly obvious you’ve enjoyed your own stale biscuit only by sniffing the pleasant odors of my bakery. You won’t leave until you’ve paid me for what you’ve taken. I don’t work for nothing, my friend.”

A crowd gathered and urged the two to take their dispute before the local judge, who was a wise old man. The judge listened to their arguments, thought a long time, then rendered his judgment.

“You are right,” he told the baker. “This traveler has savored the fruits of your labor. I rule the smell of your cakes is worth three gold coins.”

“That’s absurd!” the traveler objected. “Besides, I’ve spent all my money on my journey. I don’t have a penny to pay.”

“Ah,” said the judge, “in that case I will help you.” He pulled three gold coins from his own pocket, which the baker quickly reached to take.

“Not yet,” said the judge. “You say this traveler merely smelled your cakes?”

“That’s right,” replied the baker.

“But he never swallowed a bite?” “I told you he did not.”

“He never tasted a pastry?”

“No!”

“And never touched your pies?”

“No!”

“Then since he has consumed only vapors, you must be paid with sound. Open your ears and receive what you deserve.”

The wise judge let the gold coins rumble from one hand to the other so that their tingling entered the baker’s greedy ears.

“If you had been kind enough to help this poor man along his way,” the judge said, “then truly you would have found a golden reward in Heaven.”

This Mexican folktale is an adaptation of Aesop’s “Hercules and the Wagoner.” It teaches the age-old moral that God helps those who help themselves. Good, hard work is often the best way out of a tough spot.

One sunrise two neighboring farmers set out for market in town. Their wagons were piled high with tomatoes that would ripen quickly in the hot noonday sun, so they pushed their horses steadily all morning, not wanting their precious cargoes to spoil on the way.

But the poor beasts were tired by the time they reached the steepest hill outside town, and strain as they might, they could not get up the slope. The wagons sat at the bottom of the hill, with the climbing sun beating down mercilessly.

“There’s nothing to do but let them rest,” said the first farmer, shrugging. “And come to think of it,
I could use a little siesta myself. We’ve been on the road since sunup. I think I’ll lie under this tree for a while.”

“But you can’t,” his companion exclaimed. “By the time you wake up, your load will be ruined.”

“Don’t worry, my friend. God will provide. He always does. I’ll just say a few prayers before
I doze off.” He rolled over on his side with a yawn.

The second farmer, meanwhile, strode to the back of his wagon and, putting his shoulder to the rear, began to shove as hard as he could. He yelled at his horse to pull forward, but to no avail. He pushed till the veins stood out on his neck, and he cursed at the top of his lungs, but his cart ascended the hill not one inch.

Just then the Lord and Saint Peter passed along the road as they sometimes did, for often they walk abroad to look into men’s hearts. The Lord saw the frantic, swearing farmer struggling with his load. He smiled and laid a kind hand on the wheel, and at once the cart rose to the top of the hill.

The Lord passed on with Saint Peter at his side. The Gatekeeper’s gaze bent downward, as if he were pondering their every step.

“I don’t understand,” he said at last. “Why did you help that man? Even as we came upon him, we heard him cursing most irreverently. And yet you did not help his friend, who offered his prayers for your help.”

The Lord smiled.

“The man I helped cursed, it’s true, but not with his heart. That is just the way he talks to his horse. In his heart, he was thinking fondly of his wife and children and aged parents, who depend on his labor and need him to return with some profit for his toil. He would have stayed there pushing all day. His friend, on the other hand, calls on me only when he believes he needs me. What he thinks of is sleep. So let him have his nap.”

Copyright 2020 by Ed Bagley

Life is short,
death is certain.
We will all
feel the curtain.

We plan to do
our very best,
then hope that we
might finally rest.

Now we know
there is NO rest.
As we confront
test after test.

Life can make
us really try.
Our reason fails
to tell us why.

Sometimes we win,
sometimes we lose.
It all depends
on how we choose.

And when the
final curtain falls,
you will see,
where you
will be.

Death will only
open a door,
to perhaps a life
on an upper floor.

And only then
you will see,
exactly where
the end will be.

But to imagine
our life ahead,
we must follow
what Jesus said.

Follow my cross,
know the way,
to see my Father
every day.

Our tears and troubles
will fade away,
and our clear future
will always stay.

My heavenly Father
said it best,
you will surely
see your final rest.

Keep the faith,
so you will see,
what heavenly life
can surely be.

Life is not
a resting place,
what we need
is God’s grace.

You will know
this much too,
God will never,
ever, abandon you.

Amen

That moment when someone says, “I can’t believe you would vote for Trump”  

I simply reply “I’m not voting for Trump.”

I’m voting for the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech.

I’m voting for the Second Amendment and my right to defend my life and my family.

I’m voting for the next Supreme Court Justice(s) to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I’m voting for the continued growth of my retirement investments and the stock market.

I’m voting for an end to America’s involvement in foreign conflicts.

I’m voting for the Electoral College & the Republic we live in.

I’m voting for the Police to be respected once again and to ensure Law & Order.

I’m voting for the continued appointment of Federal Judges who respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I’m voting for our jobs to remain in America and not be outsourced all over again to China, Mexico and other foreign countries.

I’m voting for secure borders and legal immigration.

I’m voting for the Military & the Veterans who fought for this Country to give the American people their freedoms.

I’m voting for the unborn babies that have a right to live.

I’m voting for continued peace progress in the Middle East.

I’m voting to fight against human/child trafficking.

I’m voting for Freedom of Religion.

I’m voting for the American Flag that is disrespected by the “mob.”

I’m voting for the right to speak my opinion & not be censored.

I’m not just voting for one person, I’m voting for the future of my Country.

I’m voting for my children and my grandchildren to ensure their freedoms and their future.

What are you voting for?

About the Source: Sid Miller is the Commissioner of Agriculture in the Great State of Texas.

Copyright 2020 by Ed Bagley

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working, another person must work without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

5. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

America is getting perilously close to losing its four most important freedoms:

1) A republic form of government based on law and order to ensure a civil and livable society.

2) The right to choose your own path in life, to speak freely and assemble freely without control from a government hell bent on becoming a socialist society that will control our means of production and jobs, seek to limit our source of information in the media and in our educational system and provide us with a substandard, universal healthcare system that will go broke, just like every other government program since the beginning of time.

3) The right to keep arms to protect us from a government that becomes too big and greedy in its control over us, moving into socialism and then morphing into a communist or totalitarian system with a dictator, controlling every aspect of our lost freedoms, taking our property and assets, destroying our family, raping our women and killing us when we object.

4) The right to free and fair elections to determine who will represent us without government officials fixing elections to elect the candidate of their choice, to protect our borders from criminal actors and elements that threaten our safety and security, and career politicians who can be bought and sold by special interest groups, including businesses making money and creating jobs, and minority groups littered with victims who have little interest in working within the existing system to get ahead and prosper and seek government control and government handouts while complaining and whining voraciously while achieving nothing.

America is the freest country with the greatest opportunity on the face of the Earth. Clearly, the underachievers who are unhappy in America are out to change our system rather than themselves. The do not understand this reality: When you blame others you give up your ability to change. Albert Einstein said it best: The difference between ignorance and intelligence is that intelligence has a limit.

Copyright © 2015 Ed Bagley

When we are born, grow and develop, we form a concept of what life has to offer.

If we grow up in a single-parent home without a father, have little exposure to an abundance of food, shelter and clothing, live in a low-income housing area, and experience poverty, drug activity and violence, our outlook on life is hardly positive.

If we grow up in a home with both a mother and father, have adequate to abundant food, shelter and clothing, live in a high-income housing area, and experience stability, substance, support, encouragement and opportunity our outlook on life is far more positive and productive.

We quickly learn our station in life, and as a youngster we also realize that we do not have the knowledge, experience, maturity, means and opportunity to easily overcome our circumstances when at an apparent disadvantage.

This is when our concept of what life has
to offer now also develops our expectations of what life has to offer, and whether we can, if disadvantaged, overcome our circumstances and begin to develop a new and better life for ourselves. Some of us manage to do this, others do not.

As we come to understand our exact circumstances and place in life, we face the challenge of what to do next.

It should come as no surprise that what happens to us as we muddle our way through the up and down process of growing up with what we perceive to be successes and failures, out attitude determines much of what happens to us.

If our attitude is negative, our personality will become more negative and people will see us as more as a liability than an asset, someone who is more difficult to satisfy and deal with.

We quickly learn that we have enough issues of our own without being burdened by the issues that others struggle with. Life does, after all, present all of us with challenges we need to overcome. It is as common as breathing to say that we all have our crosses to bear.

If our attitude is positive, our personality will become more positive and people will see us a normal, productive, positive person who is easy to be around and helpful to us.

The positive person will become a people magnet, someone everyone wants to be around and work with, that includes everyone except the negative person, who will likely see the positive person as someone more fortunate than themselves.

This can lead the negative person to jealousy, envy, anger, frustration, disappointment, and ultimately violence, causing no one to want to be around them or have them as a friend.

It is easy to say and sometimes harder to understand that attitude drives personality.

If you show me someone with a continual bad attitude I will show you someone who is a great candidate to develop a bad personality.

If you show me someone with a continual good attitude I will show you someone who is a great candidate to develop a good personality.

This is a fundamental fact of life, and what happens to us as we grow up and hopefully mature into productive, well-adjusted adults who can handle duties, responsibilities, commitments and obligations, and raise their children to do the same while becoming well-adjusted children in future generations.

Abraham Lincoln said that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. You will agree that Abraham Lincoln was exactly right when you understand that attitude is a choice in your life. You have a choice to be positive or negative in every event in your life.

Some people say that life is about 10% of what happens to you and 90% about how you respond to what happens to you in life. Unless you are one of life’s greatest losers, you will be cheered up and motivated by stories about people who have overcome great odds to achieve amazing accomplishments.

This is where our concept of what life has to offer, and expectations of what life has to offer, meets our challenges of what life has to offer.

This is about whether our hopes, dreams, aspirations and achievements will be possible for us. One thing is for sure: unless believe we can do something, we never will.

Our attitude is so key as to whether we will be able to overcome our setbacks in achieving where we want to end up in life. When we believe something becomes possible to achieve, it will happen quicker when we bring a good attitude, ambition, effort, determination, acquired knowledge, skill development, understanding and maturity to the process.

Clearly, we can accomplish goals when we want to or need to, that is to say, we need a reason to do something, and it has to be a deep-seeded enough reason to overcome the obstacles on our way to accomplishing our goals and desires.

If you are hungry and starving, and need food to live, you will find a way to get food as an adult without stealing or begging for food. It is a matter of understanding that in any life event, there are only two outcomes: results or excuses.

We are ultimately exactly where we are in life as a result of the choices we have made.

If we want better results, we must make better choices. We may not achieve every one of our goals in life, but we can achieve many of them when we make the right choices at the right time for the right reasons.

If you do nothing more in life than do the right thing for the right reason, you will become very successful.

Success in life is much more than making the most money, living in the best house, driving the best car, or having the best vacations. Monetary and material success can certainly make your life easier, but it has little to with happiness.

If you ever expect to be happy, you have to add people to the equation. You must become other-centered rather than self-centered.

When you are single, you can afford to be self-centered if not happy. When you get married and have children, it is no longer just about you, it is also about your wife and children, who need your support, love, affection, understanding and encouragement.

All of us need something to do, someplace to go, and someone to share our life with, in other words, a job with a career or becoming the best housewife and mother, a home with security and love, and spouse or partner who you love as they love you.

Albert Schweitzer said it best: Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success.

No one with a bad attitude and a bad personality is happy, everyone with a good attitude and a good personality can enjoy happiness. Again, attitude rules the day, and ultimately where you end up in life.

Albert Schweitzer found his happiness in Africa. Schweitzer was a theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher and physician. In other words, a very smart, accomplished person.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophy of the “Reverence of Life”. His philosophy was expressed in many ways, but most famously for founding and sustaining the Albert Sweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, in the part of French Equatorial Africa which is now Gabon.

Sweitzer knew happiness; it was Sweitzer who first said:

“Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success”.

(Ed’s Note: This condensation is from Matthew Kelly’s book: Perfectly Yourself – Discovering God’s Dream for You. I did this condensation because I want to promote his book, which has helped me better understand myself and perhaps you could also benefit from what he has to say about seeking perfection in your life.)

Lesson One:  Celebrate Your Progress

Recognize the “hunger” we all have.

Are you making progress in your desire for connection and union with God?

We need to understand the dynamics of change that so often eludes us.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  The truth is: Diets do not fail.  We fail at diets.  Relationships do not fail.  We fail at relationships. Why can’t we transform our resolutions into habits?  The answer is because we focus too much on the desired outcome and not enough the progress we are making.  Just be yourself—life is not about doing and having, it is about becoming.  Our resolutions involving programs and products divorce themselves from God and in doing so lose their connection with grace, and no great change happens without grace.

The first step toward becoming perfectly yourself is acknowledging your imperfections.  Personal tendencies and talents should be accepted, but character defects should always be challenged.  Think of a tree: Recognize that its branches are not all straight, yet it is perfect in its imperfections, you could say it’s perfectly imperfect, yet it does change and grow over time, and so can we.  The goal is to find the balance between accepting ourselves for who we are and challenging ourselves to be all we are capable of being.  Kindness toward ourselves precedes all genuine and lasting growth, and lightheartedness is a sign that we trust that we are exactly where we are right now for a reason.

The best-version-of-ourselves is not something we strive for and never achieve.  It is something we achieve in some moments and not in others.  Practice does not make perfect in this exercise, but it does make progress.  We can become paralyzed by the fear of failure in this process and will not succeed in the effort until we believe that substantial change is possible.  We need to appreciate that celebrating progress is fundamental in achieving the psychology of change.  We must never allow our spirit to be stifled by failure.  Failure is part of progress,
it is not a final outcome.

Progress fills us with gratitude for the now and hope for the future.  Progress requires desire and action.  Progress creates enduring happiness.  Baby steps are the secret.  Small victories lead to large victories.   

Lesson Two:  Just Do the Next Right Thing

All of us at one time or another have asked this uncomfortable question:  Who am I, and what am I here for?  And:  What is life about?  This moment is part of the process of maturing into a healthy adult human being.  When you get the sense that something is wrong, realize that God has created you to be here right now for a specific reason. 

We think that a new job, a new house, a new car, a different lover or an extended vacation is the answer to our restlessness.  God asks us to stand still and create some time in the rush of everyday living to seek silence and solitude.

The self-discovery that so many people go off to other places in search of is right inside us when we discover that our imperfections are part of our perfection.  We are perfectly imperfect.  Our self-deception and misplaced expectations leave us searching for who we really are in ways that are both real and imaginary.

The key is to humble and honest enough to acknowledge which of our imperfections are part of who we are and which are obstacles that stand in the way of being perfectly imperfect.  When we are humble every life experience is richer.  Truth lived becomes wisdom and living in the things we know to be good and true begets further wisdom.

Have you ever been told that if you set your mind to it you could achieve anything?  It is a lie.  We have all set our mind to things and failed, causing us to feel inadequate.  The truth is we may fail at things because we are simply not well suited to them.  We are capable of extraordinary things, but each of us is different.  Your skill or talent could be my weakness, and my skill or talent could be your weakness.  The great challenge is not to succeed in the world’s eyes, but rather to discover what your unique abilities are and offer them to the world in the best way you can.  To feel at home with who you are and where you are and what you are doing is worth more than all the treasures and pleasures money can buy.

Only one thing can be reasonably asked of you: that you be yourself.  Too often we reject our identity as children of God, unique and wonderfully made, and take on false identities that focus on what we do or what we have, causing us to have an identity crisis.  We can find ourselves by serving others for the sake of service rather than personal gain.

Most of us experience unhappiness when we wander away from ourselves by doing and saying things that contradict who we are and what we are here for.  Unhappiness is not something that happens to us as if we are poor little victims.  
Unhappiness is something we do to ourselves.  You can choose to be happy, and God wants you to be happy even more than you do yourself.  What is happiness?  It is not easily defined, but we all know it when we experience it.

It is important to know that pleasure and happiness are not synonymous.  Pleasure cannot be sustained beyond the experience producing it.  When you eat, you experience pleasure.  You stop eating, and the pleasure stops.  That is why we do not stop eating.  We are not hungry; we simply enjoy the pleasure that comes from eating.  Happiness is different.  Happiness can be sustained beyond the experience producing it. 

Take for example, exercising or working out.  Will you plant yourself in front of your TV with a huge bag of potato chips, or work out?  The choice is yours.  Watching TV and eating potato chips might give you some immediate pleasure, but will it last when you are done?  Exercising gives you a sense of satisfaction and well-being long after you are finished, happiness can be sustained beyond the activity producing the happiness.  Every moment of our life we choose between happiness and misery.

We yearn for happiness that can be sustained independently of substances—food, drink, drugs—and a happiness that can be sustained independently of circumstances—success, money, possessions, opportunities, weather and so on.  Happiness is an inside job and has little to do with substances, money, possessions, pleasure or circumstances.

The philosophy of happiness in our culture is flawed; it promotes the idea that if you go out and get what you want, then you will be happy.  The reason it does not work is because you simply never can get enough of what you do not really need.  You have to want the right things.

Happiness cannot be found by pursuing happiness, it will elude you at every turn.  
Happiness is not an end or even an experience.  Happiness is a by-product of right living.  My friend Tony says repeatedly to “Just do the next right thing!”  If the choice is between exercising and vegetating in front of the TV, just do the next right thing.  If the choice is between cheating on your wife or being faithful to her, just do the next right thing.  By doing the next right thing, we live on into the answers to the questions that we could not answer before, because it was not time to answer them.  Who knows what will happen a month from now?  Don’t make decisions today that are not called for until next week, next month or next year.  Nothing brings happiness like right living.

(Ed’s Note:  Abraham Lincoln said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Lincoln was right.  Happiness, just like misery, is a choice we make.)

Happiness is a lot like wealth and wisdom: Those who have it generally don’t need to talk about it, and those who are constantly talking about it usually don’t have it.

Something wonderful is about to happen.  People have an enormous capacity for good because we are created in the image of God, especially when their own survival is not threatened and our basic needs are being met.  I believe in our capacity for change and growth.  Every moment is another chance to turn it all around.

(Ed’s Note:  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one, when we know what to do with it.”  Two thoughts:  1) People who are miserable complain a lot. When you blame others for your condition, you give up your ability to change.  2) People who are good at whining and complaining are seldom good at anything else.)

All success has its root in being able to capitalize on the moment, endure the moment, and draw from the moment what is to be learned, gained or achieved.  Why worry about the future and overlook the fact that how we deal with the present will determine what the future looks like.  If you do not know what the next right thing to do is, quiet yourself for a moment and go to that place deep within you.    

In each moment, do the next right thing.  You cannot think your way out or talk your way out of problems.  You acted your way into them, and you must act your way out of them.  By simply doing the right thing, you will move from confusion to clarity, from misunderstanding to insight, from despair to hope, from darkness to light, and discover your truest self, the unique person God designed you to be.

Lesson Three:  Put Character First

Character will affect the change we desire.  Character will affect your future more than any other single ingredient.  Character is not what someone says but what he or she actually does.     Our future is an external expression of our internal reality.

(Ed’s Note:  Mahatma Gandhi said “Keep your thoughts positive because thoughts become your words.  Keep your words positive because words become your behavior.  Keep your behavior positive because behavior becomes your habits.  Keep your habits positive because habits become your values.  Keep your values positive because values become your destiny.”  Gandhi absolutely knows what he is talking about.)

(Ed’s Note:  Just as we can learn from our mistakes, we can gain character from our disappointments.  Challenges do not build character, challenges reveal character.  How we react to disappointments determines our character.  Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% about how we react to it.  Attitude is critical to building character and success, guts and determination seal the deal.  You must make the right choices—do the next right thing—and take action.)

A person’s talent can blind us to what kind of person they really are.  Talent is genetic or God-given.  You are born with talents.  You either have them or you do not.  Talent may be obvious but it is still limited.  (Ed’s note: Nobody will ever run a 3-minute mile.)  It is important to note that while talent is limited, your ability to increase your character is unlimited.  Character is a gift you give to yourself, and it is one of the few things that can never be taken from you.

(Ed’s note:  Character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.  Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.  Clearly, character and integrity are joined at the hip.)

The thing I truly and deeply respect is virtue.  There is simply nothing more attractive than virtue.  The cornerstone of character is virtue (behavior showing high moral standards).  Our culture has reduced all virtue to the universal virtue of niceness, which is no virtue at all.  The most obvious example of this is in modern parenting.  Many parents seem more interested in being a friend to their children than in being a parent.  High school teachers can shirk the responsibility entrusted to them in the area of discipline, merely to be popular with their students.  Trustworthiness is universally accepted as a litmus test of good character.

Rigorous honesty and love of truth in turn give birth to integrity.  Honesty means that we can be taken at our word and that what we say can be trusted.  Integrity means that we can be relied on to do what we say we will do.  Together, honesty and integrity make us worthy of trust—we become trustworthy.  If we are being dishonest with others, we are also being dishonest with ourselves.  The external reality is an expression of the internal reality:  We must lie to ourselves before we lie to anyone else.  And that is betrayal of self.  Being honest with ourselves is at the very core of integrity.  The other side of honesty and integrity is when we do not speak up when we should.  There is no personal integrity without honesty, and there is no enduring happiness without personal integrity.  To attain real virtue requires constant dedication to the truth. 

The enemy of character is ego.  The true self speaks for character, and the false self speaks for ego.  The authentic self finds its identity in all things that are good, true, beautiful and noble, while our personal ego is constantly making demands on insecurity and self-aggrandizement.  It is this conflict between character and ego which surrounds the whole human drama.

All great music, movies and stories are centered on this struggle.  When we are living from an ego-centered perspective, everything happens in relation to us.  Ego wants you to always be the center of attention.

The authentic self is genuinely interested in other people, while the ego is interested only in what other people can do for it.  We are not the center of the universe, and when we try to place ourselves there, we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.

Our lives genuinely improve only when we grow in virtue.  Any other change is simply cosmetic.  If we truly wish to grow in virtue, we must wean ourselves off instant gratification.  Growing in virtue requires real and constant effort.

Pick a virtue and ask God to show you ways to develop that virtue in yourself.  When you encounter someone in need, be generous with your time, talents or treasure.  In each moment, just do the next right thing and your life will begin to flood with joy.  There are no personal acts.  Everything we do affects the people around us.

Just because you do something in the privacy of your home, behind closed doors, with no one else involved and no one else to witness the act, does not mean that that act does not affect other people.  Every human act affects the future of humanity.  Everything God created in the universe and beyond is connected.

Putting character first means that we will allow our thoughts, decisions, actions and relationships to become subordinate to this quest to become and remain authentic.  This is only possible of course with the help of God’s grace.  Alone we can do nothing.  But with God and in God, so much is possible that we have not even begun to imagine.

Lesson Four:  Find What You Love to Do and Do It

You only have so much time during your work life.  Thoreau said most men and women lead lives of quiet desperation.  Most people hate their job.  They keep doing it to support their family, or they think chasing money, power, position or fame will give them satisfaction and happiness.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  People do not want just a job, they want meaningful work.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

We know that working hard and happiness are linked.  Work is not a punishment.  You do not have to do anything.  Nobody can make you do anything.  We choose to go to work.  The primary meaning, purpose and value of work is that when we work hard and well, when we pay attention to the details of our work, we develop character and virtue.  When we work, we gain the opportunity to partner with God.  When work is approached in the right way and with the right frame of mind, it helps us to become more perfectly ourselves.

More than 2,350 years ago, Aristotle pointed out that happiness resides in activity, both mental and physical, and not idleness.  We tend to confuse happiness with mere relaxation and being entertained.  All honest work has an intrinsic value.  Saint Augustine said “Pray as though everything depended on God.  Work as though everything depended on you.”  Pray for God’s help, and then find your passion and get busy working. 

Do not tell people you do not know what you want to do when you grow up.  You are already grown.  Ask “Who is God inviting me to become?”

Change from what do I want to what does God want.  We are not asking, what does God want us to do; we are asking, who does God want us to become.  Make a list of all the things you are passionate about and ask God to guide you to your passion.  Try sitting in an empty room alone and listening quietly, you may be surprised what thoughts come to you. 

Lesson Five:  Live What Your Believe

We all believe in something.  An atheist believes that there is no God.  An agnostic believes that he does not know if there is a God.  Christians believe there is a God.

(Ed’s note:  Christians believe in the Holy Trinity:  God, the creator of creation.  Jesus, the Christ, God’s only Son and our Redeemer and Savior by His death on the cross and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.  As Saint Patrick says, “We believe in the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.”)

People are not born with beliefs and opinions; these are the result of education and experience.  Belief is something that evolves in our lives.  We all have the capacity to believe, and what we believe affects the way we live our lives.  There is no faster way to create enduring unhappiness than to act against our beliefs.  The great challenge is to work out what we believe. 

When it comes to everyday dilemmas, we all have a guide that is never wrong and often ignored.  The voice of the authentic self calls to us ceaselessly form within.  Traditionally it has been called the voice of conscience.  Most of the time we seek counsel because we lack the courage to do what we know we ought to do.  It was Socrates’ counsel that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Let us resolve to take some time each day to withdraw from the crazy, noisy, busy world into the sanctuary of the classroom of silence to work out who we are, what we believe, and what we are here for.

What we long for is the unity of life, one living, breathing, ordered life.  It is important to remember that happiness is not achieved by the pursuit of happiness but rather the result of right living.  Unity of life is established one decision at a time.  Consciousness and choice are what we must grapple with if we are to find wholeness.  They are the source of the division and the unity, the source of our brokenness and our healing.  Pray:  “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in your  truth . . . ”  The more complex our lives become, the more we need to accede to the gentle voice within.

Lesson Six:  Be Disciplined

Our insatiable appetite for instant gratification tends to lead us farther and farther away from character, virtue, integrity, wholeness, and our authentic self.  Coupled with our untamed affinity with instant gratification is our mistaken notion that freedom is the right or ability to do whatever we want.  Do we really believe that a life without structure or discipline will yield the happiness we desire?  I think not.  Every area of our life—physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, professional and financial—benefits from self-discipline.

Advertising would have us believe that all our wants for food and diet, exercise, money and relationships will give us happiness.  The common lie in all these programs is that you can be happy without discipline.

Saint Paul writes that “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Self-control is a gift we give to ourselves and is the very essence of discipline.  We are not born with discipline; discipline is acquired.  We acquire discipline by practicing discipline.  Self-control is always accompanied by self-awareness.  As difficult as it may be, we must bring our temper, appetites and impulses under control by exercising discipline, knowing that the more discipline we develop the closer we will come to God’s plan for our life. 

One way to help control your temper, appetites and impulses is by fasting.  Our role model is, of course, Jesus.  Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness at the outset of His ministry.  He was tempted by the devil and exemplified self-control.

Fasting does not have to involve food.  You can fast from shopping, criticizing yourself and others, complaining and procrastination.  You can fast from anything that causes you to become a slave of your temper, appetites or impulses.  Getting better is a process, not a single action.           To ultimately give yourself to others in service, you must first possess yourself.  When you are in control of yourself, you can teach others to do the same.    

Lesson Seven:  Simplify

Clutter, congestion and confusion have become an accepted part of most people’s everyday experience in life, but it does not need to be that way.  We have chosen and created the clutter and congestion.  It needs to stop.  We need to simplify, simplify, simplify.  Simplicity is the way to clarity.  We complicate our lives for 4 main reasons:  1)  We don’t know what we really want, 2)  We don’t have a clear sense of the purpose of our lives,  3)  We are scared of missing out on something, and  4)  We want to be distracted from the real challenges of the inner life.

Get clear about who you are and who you are not, about what you do and what you don’t do.  Again, heal yourself by getting in control of yourself.  Get discipline and set and keep standards of behavior.  Clarity cannot be obtained in the noisy, busy world.  Life is a series of choices.  To make great choices, you must first become clear about why you are making them.  Allow simplicity to direct our life and permit a measure of silence and solitude to have their proper place in the course of your daily activities.

The greatest lesson in simplifying your life is to learn to say “no”.  Being perfectly yourself means doing only the things that are intended for you to do. 

Money has a way of clouding our judgment.  The most devastating poverty after lack of adequate food, water and shelter is the lack of opportunity.  The great appeal of money is that it can buy opportunities.  Money complicates our lives because once we have it, we feel we must possess it.  After the money come the things—the stuff we buy because we just have to have it, the stuff we buy because everyone else has one, the stuff we buy because we were having a bad day, and the stuff we buy because we feel like rewarding ourselves.  The thing about possessions is that they rent space in our minds.  They lull us into a false sense of happiness that is not there.  We could all enjoy things without having to own them, like enjoying a sunrise or sunset, smelling flowers, swimming, bicycling, hiking in the woods, or watching nature unfold before us. 

Simplicity is one of the enduring principles of happiness.

Lesson Eight:  Focus on What You Are Here to Give

It is the responsibility of each of us individually to do whatever is necessary to feel good about one’s self.  Take time for quiet moments alone in silence.  It is in this audience of one that we must convince ourselves that we are using our life in a worthy way.  You have to look yourself in the eye when you gaze into the mirror and really like yourself.  Self-esteem is essential to discovering God’s dream for our lives and essential if we are to establish enduring happiness.   

Stage one in life is survival.  Stage two is independence.  Most people slide by stage three right into Stage four—effectiveness and thriving.  Because they miss stage three, they end up living a life of quiet desperation.  Stage three is mission.  What is our mission in life?  Why are you here?

These are difficult questions for most people of recognize and answer.  That said, people who have a sense of mission in their lives are filled with a joy that is independent of substance and circumstances.  Only a handful of people are called to great missions in their life.  Most of us are called to missions more manageable in the context of our daily lives.  That is the thing about a mission.  You do not choose a mission; you are sent on a mission.

This is precisely the reason why so many explanations of the difficult stages of human development skip straight over the mission stage.  It poses a problem in a society that idolizes self-determination.  God calls us to a mission.  This is important because having a mission and spirituality are inseparably linked.  I do not know of anybody who is experiencing enduring happiness who does not have some sense of mission in his or her life. 

The person with the greatest sense of mission in all of history was Jesus Christ.  He was perfectly clear about who he was, what he was here for, what mattered most, what mattered least, what he was about, and the mission that every event and conversation was building toward.  This astounding clarity and sense of mission was the result of his relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The closer we get to God, the clearer our own sense of mission becomes.

What is your mission in life?  This is a question you must answer for yourself.  Ultimately, your mission will be driven by the needs of others and the needs of the world.  See Matthew 20:28—The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.  Our greatest strength as human beings is our ability to make a difference in the lives of other people, and yet it is the most unemployed of all human abilities.  Francis of Assisi encouraged his listeners in this way:  “First do what is necessary, then do what is possible, and before long you will find yourself doing the impossible.”

By shifting our focus from what we can get to what we can give, we open ourselves up to a life of service.  Jesus placed an enormous value on service.  He rejected all the ways the world measures greatness—fame, fortune, power, position, achievement, intellect, possessions and status.  Jesus measures greatness by service to others.

(Ed’s note:  Fear and fatigue block the mind.  Confront both and courage and confidence will flow into you.)

Lesson Nine:  Patiently Seek the Good in Everyone and Everything

Worry is the final obstacle to enduring happiness.  We worry because we want to be in control of the situation or circumstance, but worry is a self-deception.  Worry is often born from our unwillingness to admit that we are powerless over a certain situation or circumstance.  We must each find a way to maintain our inner peace even in these times.  Most things that I get worked up about are of absolutely no consequence.  We tend to be afraid because we do not know how things are going to work out, but things are going to work out, one way or another.   

(Ed’s note:  Shaolin Kung Fu Philosophy helps me here.  One of its tenants is:  It has all happened before.  Everyone and no one has been here before, and no matter how obscure it may seem to you, “the universe is . . .  unfolding as it should”, or more precisely, as it cannot help but do.  It is absolutely guaranteed that whatever the result becomes, it will be driven by a choice by someone.

We are exactly where we are in life because of the choices we have made.  Another tenant is:  Stop for charity, no matter what the cost, and there will be benefit instead of cost.  It does not matter for whom.)

Problems are opportunities to build character.  We can endure just about anything as long as we see ourselves moving toward a worthy purpose.  Problems can teach us lessons when we are willing to learn.

(Ed’s note:  When all else fails, remember this serenity prayer by American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”)

God speaks to us all in the silence.  Only in the classroom of silence can we gain the calm and clarity that allow us to know when to wait patiently and when to push forward impatiently, when to plan diligently and when to live spontaneously.  Visit the quiet of your own heart in silence alone without interruption and listen. 

We live in an amazing and wonderful world.  Those who believe that good things are going to happen to them are generally happier than those who do not.  If we do not go seeking the good, then we will be constantly looking for what is wrong in everyone and everything.

(Ed’s note:  Be a good finder, not a bad finder.  God is good, not bad.  He wants you to see the good in others.  Nothing worth accomplishing comes easy, yet the reward is great when we serve others.)

A final note by Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “That which we persist in doing becomes easier—not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”

Copyright © 2020 Ed Bagley

I think it is true: God gives men 4 crucial gifts: The Gift of Life, The Gift of Choice, The Gift of Faith and The Gift of Women.

The Holy Trinity is really three persons in one—God the Father, the Creator of Creation as we know it; God the Son, Jesus, who by being crucified on the cross becomes our redeemer by canceling out our original sin passed down from Adam and also becomes  our savior by arising from the dead so that we might be heirs to eternal life in heaven; and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life as we know it and live it on Planet Earth.

Here is why we are the benefactors of God’s 4 crucial gifts:

The Gift of Life

Without the Gift of Life we would not exist. We exist through the grace of God, our Creator.  

Following is one example of why God remains relevant in today’s world:

Jesus said to His apostle Thomas (the “Doubting Thomas” as he would become known):

“You have seen me and now you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen me, yet still believe.”

Lesson: The knowledge of belief is a lifesaving gift. We are the only animal on Planet Earth who knows we will eventually die. When we die, we will lose our consciousness and experience either nothingness, or a life with our Father in heaven, even though we do not now know exactly what that afterlife will be.

Which is the better choice?

Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He was not kidding. To be blunt, He said it is either my way or no way.

We know that all good things come to an end, and nothing stays the same.

The Holy Bible teaches us that no one can come to the Holy Father except through Jesus, and that while doing good works is a Christian practice that is highly valued, we will ultimately be saved by the grace of God, and not by our good works in helping others.

The apostle Mark tells us that Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” 

What is important about this message from Jesus is that you believe in Him and His word. The fact that you are also baptized is an important act of saying that you believe in God’s word, you are entering a new life with Jesus, and you are washed clean of the past and your sins.

Baptism for an adult simply means that your heart, not your mind, is changed by a leap of faith in Jesus; that is, you have found a better, more fulfilling way to live life here on Earth, God’s place for us to live when we are granted the gift of life through the Holy

Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life.

No specific act of doing good, including baptism, is necessary for you to be saved. If you were a believer and practicing your belief according to God’s plan for your life, you would still be saved, even if you were not aware that baptism, according to some believers, is a necessary condition to be saved. You will be saved by your belief, not your baptism.

That said, baptism will give you additional protection as a Christian because it is an act of faith and belief in God’s word. In the Catholic faith, baptism is the first of seven sacraments that are vital to the Catholic faith.

Many Christians believe that being baptized opens you up to receiving the Holy Spirit, and the protection of God’s angels, who have been messengers of His holy word. 

God is really 3 persons in 1:

1) God, who created the universe and every good thing in it.

2) Jesus, who suffered an excruciating death on the cross to forgive our sins (the times when we have strayed from God’s plan for our lives), thus becoming our redeemer; and then arose from the dead (thereby conquering death on Earth), thus becoming our savior so that we might spend our continued life with God the Father in heaven.

3) and the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life on Earth, and the inspiration for every good deed that happens during our existence on Earth, including a sense of compassion, kindness, understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, approval and, most important, love for one another.

The Gift of Choice

Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” . . . “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (for example, if you do not want to be killed, then do not kill others).

This is simply said but difficult for us to achieve completely because of the devil, who appeals to our baser wants and desires in being human, including greed, envy, lust, lying, cheating, stealing, power, influence, pride, hatefulness, and gluttony.

The devil is any evil thing that prevents us from being the person God wants us to be, knowing that if we believe in God and follow Him, our life will be better for our belief and behavior. The devil is out to destroy our sense of goodness, and the spirit of God is always present to remind us that our spirit of goodness will always remain the better choice for our well-being.

We exercise our gift of choice when we sin simply because we are foolish. We foolishly think sinning gives us pleasure and perhaps a sense of satisfaction when, in fact, it ultimately gives us nothing but heartache and unrest.

We think taking another drink (as an alcoholic), taking another drug (as a drug addict), consciously lying, cheating and stealing (to increase our own wealth and material possessions at the expense of others), or giving into concupiscence (having an affair with our fellow worker or casual acquaintance for the thrill of the excitement, attention and ego boost) will give us more happiness and pleasure when, in fact, it does just the opposite—we yearn for more of what we should not have or do, then desire more, and are never satisfied.

There might be some sense of satisfaction but there can be no real happiness and peace of mind when we sin. All sin leaves us with is the desire for more of the wrong tonic—guilt, shame, uneasiness, or all three.

We want to do better, but we do not choose to do better because sacrifice, discipline, and loyalty seem even more difficult than sinning.

The choice between doing good and evil is not a concept, it is a real life choice we face every day and every moment of our lives. Every choice in life that we make has a consequence, and some consequences are more severe to our survival than others.

That is why sinning becomes such a lure; some of our sins do not provide us with immediate feedback on the long-term consequences of our actions (it takes very little time to become an alcoholic, a drug addict, or an adulterer).

The beauty of the gift of choice is that when we do things that will destroy us, we always have—because of our gift of free will—the opportunity to change our course of action by making a better choice. And better choices will produce better consequences.

When we sin and do not believe in Jesus, it is never too late to accept God the Farther, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit into our lives, and benefit from the blessings, mercy and grace that God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can bring us.

Lesson: If you hear his voice today, harden not your heart. When in doubt, follow your heart, not your mind.

In the Book of Proverbs, we read that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

It is our heart that rules our final destiny, not our mind. Our mind is the devil’s playground, our heart is God’s place of rebirth and redemption, wherein goodness always remains an option through our forgiveness by the grace of God.

Lesson: God will reward our good choices and forgive our bad ones. Only the devil will encourage our bad choices; God will never do so because He is incapable of sin.

The more you do what God wants, the less the devil will influence your life, but you must continually choose to do the right thing with the right motives for the right reasons to get the right results.

 Lesson: Trust in the Lord in all things and lean not unto your own understanding (your way of thinking).

The Gift of Faith

When everyone has abandoned us, and there is no hope that our life will get any better anytime soon, we can always count of this reality: God is with us and will never abandon us in our hour of need. We just need faith in our choice to follow God’s plan for our life.

Our gift of faith is joined at the hip by our longing for hope. Hope that there is something positive in our future that causes us to hang onto the precious gift of life. When a person loses all sense of hope they are a candidate for suicide to end it all.

We can solve our problems, loneliness and discouragement by using the talents He has given us. We must pray like it depends upon God, but act like it depends on us. God gives the birds food to eat, but He does not put it in their nest—they must work by going out and finding it, and so it is with us. The more effort we make doing the right things with right motives, the more God will recognize and reward our efforts.

Some people think that because God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can do anything, they should do everything. Some common examples of apparent injustice happening to helpless people include a child dying of an incurable disease, people being killed by a natural disaster, or someone drinking and driving and killing an entire family during a head-on collision.

These are all tragic events that are part of our everyday life. We wish these events were not part of our everyday life, but they are, and we feel helpless and inadequate in preventing them. The prevalent thought is: How can a God of justice and mercy allow this to happen?

The answer is as complex as the triune God itself, the trinity of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In brief, if God were to prevent every tragedy on Planet Earth from happening, He would have to take away our free will, destroying our ability to act (make conscious choices) in our own self best-interest.

The problem is, without the ability to accept or reject God by using our free will, we would have no way to connect with God after death here on Earth without our conscious choice to accept and believe in Him while we are still alive.

Another consideration lies in the oneness of goodness. If we never experienced both good and evil, we would not be able to distinguish the difference between the two behaviors.

We can experience unwanted tragedy and suffer from our bad decisions and mistakes in judgment. We can also learn from our mistakes, and when doing wrong, make a different, better choice to do the right thing with right thinking and right motives the next time.

We should never assign blame for our circumstances because, when we blame others, we give up our power to change. And if we lack the will for change, there is no one who can show us the way. Not even Jesus Christ. When you turn your back on Jesus, He turns His back on you.

It is important to appreciate that while we will never be perfect (we will sin because it is in our nature), we can learn from our mistakes.

When we encounter adversity and do not what to do or say, prayer provides as answer to fill the vacuum of doubt, fear and uncertainty. There is tremendous power in prayer.

Even in the best of times, we could and should pray in thankfulness for power and glory of the triune God in our life.

It is also important to appreciate that adversity does not build character. Just as we can learn from our mistakes, we can gain character from our disappointments. It is our response to disappointment that builds character. We cannot always prevent what happens to us, but we can always control our attitude and response to what happens to us in everyday life.

Fear and fatigue block the mind. Confront both, and courage and confidence will flow into us. Understand that when stability becomes a habit, maturity and clarity follow. Do not be confused by the devil.

God gives us the opportunity to live our life on a higher plain by exercising our ability to

choose wisely. This not only pleases God but helps us better prepare for our life after death if, by God’s grace, we are able to join Him with His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit in heaven. In heaven we will not have to worry about evil. We may well be helping people avoid evil by watching over them from afar.

We should continually praise and thank God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for their blessings, and most certainly for their mercy and grace in our present life.

The Gift of Women

God recognized man’s loneliness and created women to help him along his way. The union of man and woman allows for the creation of new life, a most precious gift indeed.

If man only had himself he would get bored and tired in a hurry. Women were made in part to listen to man’s greatest accomplishments, worst failures and absolute foolishness.

Women are the equal, if not superior of men, in many good traits that matter in the union of relationships involving both men and women–compassion, kindness, understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, approval and, most important, love for one another to name just a few.

Some men say they cannot live with women or without women. That is pure nonsense. If men did not have women in their life, Adam would have died in the Garden of Eden alone and life as we know would have stopped.

It is women, with the help of men, who conceive and bear the children who continue human existence on earth. We will all die eventually and if we do not see the generation coming behind us, life would not be as joyful, despite the challenges, as we carry on to our eventual destiny.

While it may be difficult for some men to admit, women can complete men, meaning that a man is always better off with a woman in his life. It is possible for men to complete women. The union of a man and a woman can make both better as a unit operating together rather than apart.

There are other gifts in our life, including God-given talent, intelligence and creativeness to mention three, but without a proper appreciation and understanding of first four great gifts, the rest would be window dressing. We create and develop every other gift in life because of the first four.

If you have read this far, you have a lot of stick-to-itiveness and patience. Whatever you think of one man’s opinion and belief, remember that it is one man’s opinion of the crucial importance of life—there are others with just as strong or greater beliefs.

Copyright © 2015 Ed Bagley

(Ed’s Note: Regrettably, Grandview Gardens has since been purchased by a private party that is now living in the former bed-and-breakfast as a home. There may never be a place like it still operating in the Western Washington area. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.)

When it’s time to get away from all the things we might label as “life interrupts” moments—the noise, distractions, calls, email and text messages to mention a few—you might want to consider Grandview Gardens in Keyport, WA.

When you have lived for more than seven decades, you begin to really appreciate the value of silence. When you walk into a lot of homes today, the occupants are surrounded by noise; it’s as if they couldn’t exist without the distractions. Children are on smartphones or tablets, playing video games, texting or yacking, the adults are multi-tasking as the television is on with the volume up and no one watching or listening.

More than one person has realized the value of silence, or quiet time. An example is French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, who said “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. It is clear that Pascal meant quietly without any interruptions or distractions.

The obvious connection between Pascal and Grandview Gardens? Silence. Pure, unadulterated silence. At Grandview Gardens silence is a welcome blessing to the onslaught of mixed-media and multiple distractions all begging for our attention.

We live in an over-communicated world in which never being out of touch means never being able to get away. We are swept along in the same rapid current as everyone else, a current that is swift but hardly deep. There is no room to unplug and learn to think differently from the crowd. In silence we will be able to experience life instead of information.

Grandview Gardens is a quaint, quiet, calm waterfront bed-and-breakfast setting that is inspected and approved by the Washington Bed & Breakfast Guild for quality, comfort, cleanliness and hospitality. If that doesn’t sound like an ad, it should, and it’s true.

Don’t come to Grandview Gardens for its name, it has a garden, but it is not a garden showplace. Come for the home atmosphere, the waterfront and your hosts, Tom and Jackie Lewis. Tom will be the quiet one; Jackie will be the personality. They are excellent hosts. They will not disturb your room, your space or your enjoyable stay. Jackie will cook you a great breakfast in you wish, or not. It’s your choice.

The beauty of Grandview Gardens for my wife and me included no time we had to get up, no appointments to keep, no clients to see, no phones to answer, and no disturbances to mess with our mind, heart, soul or spirit.

Grandview Gardens is exclusive in that there are only two rooms—the Cape Cod Room and the Northwest Coastal Room–both designed and decorated for patrons who value quality and taste. We chose the Cape Cod Room because for more than 20 years we traveled from Washington State to Cape Cod to vacation with our extended family since my wife grew up in Massachusetts.

The Cape Cod Room has a two-tone, greenish-blue teal color with a vaulted ceiling, white crossbeam, crown molding, whitewood wrapped windows, queen bed, two lighthouse-styled lamps with night stands, a round table with 4 chairs, a couch and rocking chair, all of the electronics with a generous storage spaces on a stand below, tasteful artwork featuring shells, starfish and sailboats, and a bathroom with a double vanity, tub and shower with rain shower water heads. The room is impeccable, from the oscillating fan to the clever door locks.

The spacious window offers up a large deck area on the first floor below and a waterfront view with a marina, dock and the serene waters of Port Orchard Bay, surrounded by waterfront properties across the bay with a backdrop of enormous evergreen trees lining the hillside of the Olympic Mountain Range. Time literally stands still as watercraft slowly move through the bay to and from the Puget Sound.

Grandview Gardens is located in Keyport, 3 miles east of the Bangor Naval Submarine Base in the North Central Area of the Kitsap Peninsula in Western Washington. Keyport has a population of 554 people. If you do nothing else, don’t miss lunch with hand-rolled, delicious pizza at the Keyport Mercantile Store, and dinner at the upscale Whiskey Creek Steakhouse on the main road in Keyport. 

We stayed five days and made a number of memorable side trips, including Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Port Ludlow.

Port Orchard was on my wife’s list because it is the home of Debbie Macomber, a #1 New York Times and USA Today best-selling American author of romance novels and contemporary fiction. We had tea and lunch at Debbie Macomber’s Victorian Rose Tea Room, which is next door to Debbie Macomber’s A Good Yarn Shop, where she actually writes her novels on the upper floor of her office.

From my perspective, visiting the Victorian Rose Tea Room is not a guy thing, but it’s guaranteed that the woman in your life will be thrilled that you went with her and bought her the latest Debbie Macomber book with Debbie’s personal autograph. My wife hasn’t read all of Macomber’s 485 published works, but she has read enough that, with thousands of other women readers, she has helped Debbie Macomber become a very rich author who had donated a lot of money to community projects in Port Orchard.

Poulsbo proved to be an education of an enlightened city with a mission: relieve you of your money and have you almost thanking them for doing so. Our time in Poulsbo was that good. Poulsbo is called Little Norway and, if you are of Norwegian descent, this would be a great place to live. Driving into Poulsbo, a city of 9,500 population, it is evident that the entire community decided to be pro-business rather than anti-business.

The city powers-to-be leveled their downtown waterfront area on Liberty Bay, developed a beautiful waterfront park with a generous parking area, and a series of quality restaurants with the waterfront view. Perfect for dining on a clear, sunny day on our August trip.

The adjacent main street above the waterfront is Norwegian themed and lined with boutiques and specialty shops for tourists and out-of-town guests. My favorite place at the Poulsbo waterfront was J.J.’s Fish House. We ate there twice and, even though I have paid a lot more for a seafood dinner at a fancier place, I have never enjoyed it more than I did at J.J.’s Fish House. From a businessman’s perspective, the cross-promotion and marketing materials by merchants in Poulsbo was exceptional.

Another favorite stop was The Fireside at the Port Ludlow Resort. Chef Dan Ratigan specializes in Northwest cuisine, has a habit of purchasing food locally, and then figuring out what to create with what he has bought. In a word, it’s amazing, especially the scallops.

We found our silence, away from the maddening crowd, at Grandview Gardens. We will be booking our reservations early for next year.  

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

If you were celebrating Valentine’s Day (February 14, 2008) with a candlelight dinner for two at home and settled in to watch a movie, “Sleepless in Seattle” would be a great choice because it provides a pleasant experience and is already becoming a romantic comedy classic.

Your parents or grandparents experienced a similar story line in the now classic “An Affair to Remember” that was released in 1957 and paired Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Their characters fall in love and agree to meet in 6 months at the Empire State Building in New York.

Sleepless in Seattle, released 36 years later in 1993, pairs Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin and Meg Ryan as Annie Reed. Sam is the recently widowed father of 8-year-old Jonah Baldwin (Ross Malinger), who calls a nationally-broadcast radio talk show, attempting to find his lonely father a partner.

A somewhat reluctant Sam talks to host Marcia Fieldstone and thousands of single women across America are suddenly drawn into Sam’s sense of love for his former wife, each wishing she could be as cherished as Sam’s next special person. To wit:

Doctor Marcia Fieldstone: Tell me what was so special about your wife?

Sam Baldwin: Well, how long is your program? Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together . . .and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home . . . only to no home I’d ever known . . .I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like . . . magic.

If that dialog does not melt every woman’s heart she would need to go straight to “The Wizard of Oz” and receive a new transplant. Soon Sam is getting thousands of letters from wannabe partners, all of which are read by his son Jonah, who decides that “Annie” is the best choice.

Annie is engaged to marry Walter (Bill Pullman). Should she do so she would be making the first great mistake of her life. Walter is a decent enough chap, but Annie is missing any sparks in their relationship because Walter has the personality of an ashtray.

Annie goes to great lengths to meet Sam, flying from New York to Seattle only to discover Sam with another woman, whom she mistakes for a love interest. She never mails a letter she has written to Sam, but her friend does. In it she proposes to meet Sam on top of the Empire State Building.
Sam is not interested in going, but his son Jonah is, so, with the help of his new friend whose parents own a travel agency, he is able to book a flight to the Big Apple and ends up on the observation deck of the Empire State Building looking for Annie. Sam, in a panic, to find his son, follows him to New York. The rest you will have to see.

Hanks is very convincing as a forlorn widower and Ryan was at her peak of being cute and innocent. The chemistry between the two, who only share approximately 2 minutes of screen time together, is great.

The role of Annie was originally offered to Julia Roberts but she turned it town. Kim Basinger, who was also offered the part, turned it down because she thought the premise was ridiculous. Just recently in the news, a youngster in Jonah’s peer group did exactly what Jonah did, managed to book flight on a major airline and fly undetected. Life is indeed stranger than fiction.
The screenplay for Sleepless in Seattle was written in part by Nora Ephron, who also wrote “When Harry Met Sally” (another great romantic comedy with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal). Ephron directed the film.

Ephron, David S. Ward and Jeff Arch (who did write the story) were nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay, and the film received another nomination for Best Original Song (“A Wink and a Smile”). Sleepless in Seattle also got Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Best Actress (Meg Ryan).
Sleepless in Seattle cost $21 million to film and grossed $227 million worldwide at the box office, adding another $65+ million in rentals.

Tom Hanks is the gold standard in acting. He has been nominated for 5 Best Actor Oscars (“Big”, “Philadelphi”a, “Forrest Gump”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Cast Away”) and won twice for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Hanks also has won 4 Best Actor Golden Globes for Big, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump and Cast Away.

His films have grossed more than $3.3 billion. He remains only 1 of 3 actors to have 7 consecutive $100 million domestic blockbusters; the other two are Tom Cruise and Will Smith.

Sleepless in Seattle is viewed by many guys as a “chick flick” but not by me. I consider it an outstanding relationship film with a great story line that proves to be a pleasant viewing experience every time I see it again. If a guy has ever been in love and felt the magic, he will appreciate this film a lot more.

(Note: Celeste Champagne is my New York Editor, a cat lover, a classic movie buff, and has been a close friend of mine for 37 years (same as family). Celeste will be occasionally reviewing classic films for publication on my web site, and I am excited to welcome her as one of my select contributing writers. Here is her first contribution. –Ed Bagley)

Copyright © 2009 Celeste Champagne

Alfred Hitchcock is a personal favorite of mine so seeing “Shadow of Doubt” again for the first time on a full-sized screen in a theater was a real thrill. This 1943 film was also a personal favorite of Hitchcock’s as well, and blends humor and suspense with realism, horror and romance.

Shadow of a Doubt was filmed in Santa Rosa, California, and evokes the film noir feeling of the post-World War II era. With the screenplay by Thornton Wilder, it is slow moving but builds perfectly on the distinct fear-factor that showcases Alfred Hitchcock’s creative genius.

Joseph Cotten (Uncle Charlie Oakley) is the romantic uncle come to visit after a long absence (but really to elude two detectives trailing him). His sister, Emma Newton, played by Patricia Collinge, is enamored of her brother as is her daughter, “Charlie”, played by Teresa Wright and named for him. His arrival stirs the household and this sleepy town.

Several locals were cast in the film, the best of whom was Edna May Wonacott who plays the Newton’s younger daughter, Ann.

The weaving of the father’s (Joseph Newton, played by Henry Travers) interest in mysteries and the games he plays with his neighbor, played masterfully by Hume Cronyn as Herbie Hawkins, further enhances the sinister subtext.

A visit to the Newton home by two detectives investigating the “Merry Widow Murders” sets off a flurry of activity. The lead detective played by Macdonald Carey (long associated with the TV soap opera “Days of Our Lives”) creates the platform on which the suspicions about her uncle play out in Charlie’s mind.

After a visit to the library she discovers the paper she saw Uncle Charlie tear up contained stories of the killer of rich widows whom she slowly (and sadly) comes to suspect is her uncle. Macdonald Carey, as Jack Graham, further convinces her that her uncle is the man they are seeking.

Word comes that another suspect in the murders was accidentally killed in the East thus narrowing the “persons of interest” list.

With all this said, we are still sympathetic to the charm of Charles Oakley and feel compelled to root for him. His deeds are reprehensible, but his smooth-talking manners almost overshadow them. When he realizes that his niece is on to him and he must kill her, he tries to do so three times—all without success.

The last attempt comes as he boards the train to take him back East. As he tries to push her off the platform, he himself slips and is crushed to death by a passing train. At the funeral that follows, only “Charlie” and the detective, with whom she has developed a romantic relationship, know the truth about her uncle.

Shadow of a Doubt’s realism comes from the town it was filmed in and the people who live there. The thrills which take place at the end are all part of the mood created by the tight psychological atmosphere. It is a movie which holds up today with its costumes by Adrian and musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin.

There are no actors today in the realm of a Joseph Cotten, one of Welles’ original Mercury Players. Cotten died in 1994 of complications from throat cancer at the age of 88, never having received a major award for his tremendous body of work.

Teresa Wright, perhaps better known for her role of Peggy Stephenson in “The Best Years of Our Lives”, lived to age 86 and died of a heart attack at Yale New Haven Hospital on March 6, 2005. Her second husband was the playwright, Robert Anderson, from whom she was divorced but maintained a cordial relationship until her death.

If suspense draws you in, there is no doubt that Shadow of a Doubt is an Alfred Hitchcock gem you should experience, preferably on the big screen when possible.

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

“Radio”—the true story of high school football coach Harold Jones and a mentally-challenged young man named James Robert “Radio” Kennedy—might well be one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated movies in film history.

James Kennedy was nicknamed “Radio” by the townspeople of Anderson, South Carolina because he was always listening to discarded radios. As a youth he would push or ride a grocery cart down the street, talking to no one. It was 1976 and Radio did not attend school because he was mentally challenged, and an easy target for kids more fortunate.

After some football players on coach Harold Jones’ T. L. Hanna High School team harass, intimidate and scare the living daylights out of Radio (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), Jones befriends and protects Radio by slowly winning his trust and inviting him to the team’s football practices.

Coach Jones (played magnificently by veteran actor Ed Harris) eventually has Radio helping as a “coach” and sitting on the bench during the games. When Radio’s new-found acceptance leads to his self-image and self-confidence rising, his enthusiasm creates a distraction for the team at a critical moment, and some boosters (like the father of a star player) want Radio gone.

Fortunately for Radio, his unpretentious love and loyalty to the coach and players resonates as Radio is allowed to remain part of both the team and the school. At this point in time, Radio is attending school, not as a student, but as a positive influence on the students and a welcome school-helper.

All of this is reminiscent of the biblical admonition “if you hear His voice today, harden not your heart.” Radio is about love, acceptance, approval, understanding, compassion, kindness, loyalty and finding peace in our time.

Radio the movie was inspired by Gary Smith’s 1996 article titled “Someone to Lean On” that first appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine. The film benefits greatly from the script by Mike Rich and direction by Mike Tollin, also one of the producers with Herb Gains and Brian O’keefe. Radio managed to generate $52+ million at the box office but received mixed positive (of which I am one) and negative reviews by the critics.

Radio was a terrific movie with a genuine message of value. Radio gets a positive answer to my most searching question as a movie reviewer: Am I a better person for having seen this film? You better believe it.

I am incensed that Radio was absolutely snubbed at major awards time. It is not like Ed Harris is a nobody. Before Radio was made, Ed Harris had been nominated for 3 Oscars as Best Supporting Actor (“The Hours”, “The Truman Show” and “Apollo”) and been nominated for Best Actor in “Pollock”. Add to those honors 4 nominations by the Golden Globes and a Best Actor Golden Globe for The Truman Show.

Cuba Gooding Jr. had won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in “Jerry Maguire” (remember his famous line “Show me the money”) and was nominated for a Golden Globe for the same award.

The good news about Radio is that Radio is still helping coach the Hanna High School team and bringing his presence to the school. He remains a story that continues to grow and radiate with positive vibes.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

“Pretty Woman” was originally scripted as a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles, but thankfully movie producer Laura Ziskin said “No” and what started out as a very brooding, negative film turned into one of the most popular and financially successful romantic comedies of all time. Find out why.

With a production cost of $14 million and a worldwide gross of $464 million, Laura Ziskin had to be smiling all of the way to the bank.

Pretty Woman’s title character, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), is a down-on-her-luck prostitute who is hired by Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), a wealthy businessman and corporate raider, as arm candy for several business functions.

The arrangement works well but begins to get complicated when Edward discovers Vivian is not just a hooker from Hollywood Boulevard but also a woman of substance, and Vivian finds herself falling in love in a situation that essentially has no future.

There is nothing positive about the common perception of a hooker, but Vivian smashes through the normal perceptions by quickly getting viewers past her obvious good looks and revealing her inner beauty, transparent feelings and uncompromising commitment by not settling for a comfortable, Edward-financed lifestyle as arm candy and companion.

Her willingness to walk away from the fee arrangement for her gig ultimately gets Edward’s attention, and a Hollywood story line takes over. Vivian becomes so likeable we want to cheer for her as she stands her ground and forces Edward to decide about his feelings for her. Both Vivian and Edward experience some serious personal growth that moviegoers can relate to and appreciate.

The story line reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, which became the basis for the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl who morphs into a beautiful princess. The character of Vivian also reminds me of Audrey Hepburn’s role as Holly Golightly, another lady of the night in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Director Garry Marshall completely avoids negatives in this film by wisely handling Vivian’s role, and playing the characters around her like a concert master fine tuning an orchestra. His work went a long way in helping Pretty Woman win a Golden Globe for Best Picture. Richard Gere picked up a Golden Globe for Best Actor, and Hector Elizondo won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe as the hotel manager Barney Thompson.

The shining star in Pretty Woman was Julia Roberts. She was a relative unknown at the time, and walked away with a Golden Globe as Best Actress and an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress.

Pretty Woman, released in 1990, was notable for the number of leading ladies who turned down the role of Vivian, including Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer and Daryl Hannah. Julia Roberts really won the role by default, but she made the most of her opportunity and the movie quickly made her Hollywood’s newest sweetheart, a role she held for nearly 15 years.

Al Pacino also turned down the role of Edward Lewis, leaving the door open for Richard Gere.

Here is some key trivia in the movie:

1) The opera in San Francisco that Edward flies Vivian to in a private jet is “La Traviata”, the tale of a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with a wealthy young man.

2) Richard Gere actually plays the piano himself in a late night scene, he even composed the music that he plays.

3) The sports car Edward borrows at the beginning of the movie is a Lotus Esprit. Ferrari and Porsche turned down the advertising opportunity because they did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes. Lotus won big time as its Esprit sales tripled during the next year.

The film also benefited from its title and association to “Oh, Pretty Woman”, Roy Orbison’s worldwide hit recorded 26 years earlier.

I really liked Pretty Woman and not just because of Julia Roberts’ jump-off-the-screen attractiveness, especially after Edward escorts Vivian to Rodeo Drive for a shopping spree, proving that clothes can complete even a very attractive woman. Even more important is her courage, determination, substance and dignity under stress.

If you like relationship movies and romantic comedies, Pretty Woman is a must see.

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley

The release of “The Phantom of the Opera” in 2004 was such an exciting event, bringing this great play to film so millions could see the excellence of this masterpiece, which garnered only 3 nominations and no Oscars at the Academy Awards. No matter. Perhaps the earlier success of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical composition of The Phantom of the Opera, based on the novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, was too successful to give the movie version much acclaim.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical opened in London in 1986 and in New York in 1988 and still runs today as the longest running Broadway musical of all time. It has become the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time, selling 80 million tickets and generating a worldwide gross of $3.3 billion, topping the best-grossing film of all time—”Gone eith the Wind”—by $2 billion.

This Phantom of the Opera movie has it all: a story line, plot, great writing, great presentation, and even better music and lyrics.

A cast of unknowns was used; there is no headliner, but the female lead (Emmy Rossum as Christine) is attractive and, much more important, an opera singer who can sing without having her voice dubbed in.

Some reviewers panned this movie because the bad guy (Gerard Butler as The Phantom who lives under the opera house) is not ugly enough. With this mentality, the actress who wins the next Oscar for female lead will have to have a perfect body and perfect face to win. Sometimes, common sense prevails, otherwise, Meryl Streep would never have garnered 12 nominations and two Oscars.

This Phantom is not perfect, but it is very well done, and the music could not be better. There are so many great songs (as it is with all great musicals); and I loved the voice of Emmy Rossum. See this film when you can, you will be better for the experience.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Bless yourself by renting “Nanny McPhee” and sharing it with your children at home, not in the movie theater. Do this because this film is all about home and your children might relate better in the comfort of their own home. Nanny McPhee is an excellent film with a wonderful message for all children to recognize and understand.

In an entertainment world full of trashy and violent video games with movies to match that dwell on murder, rape, sex, drugs, alcohol, filthy language, broken relationships and crummy morals, Nanny McPhee is everything good about movies for children. You and your children can watch this film without fear of unpleasant and unwanted garbage rooted in sensationalism for ratings and greed.

When finished watching, you can thank the uncompromising excellence of British actress Emma Thompson and British director Kirk Jones for the incredible excellence of Nanny McPhee. I watched this film and went to bed wondering if it was as good as I thought it was. I watched it again the next night and did not wonder again.

Thompson—who has won 2 Academy Awards for Best Actress (Howards End in 1992) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Sense and Sensibility in 1995), and 2 BAFTAs for Best Actress (Howards End and Sense and Sensibility)—wrote the screenplay for Nanny McPhee. BAFTA is the equivalent of the American Oscars, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Kirk Jones (not to be confused with the American rapper and actor Kirk Jones) is a gifted writer and director with great work that has not been properly recognized. Combine Emma Thompson with Kirk Jones and you have the formula for a winning production.

In 1998 Jones wrote and directed his first feature film “Waking Ned Devine” with a budget of $3 million that grossed $90 million worldwide. I believe Jones should have two Oscars and probably would if it were not for the fact that Hollywood’s voters are too busy pawing each other and posing for pictures to correct their near-sightedness.

Until a comedy is made that is better than Waking Ned Devine it shall remain my favorite comedy of all time.
If it sounds like I am gushing over Nanny McPhee, I am. There are so many good lines in this script I would not dare to recount them here. Watch the movie and enjoy the experience of listening carefully.

Nanny McPhee the movie is named for a governess (Emma Thompson) who uses magic to rein in the behavior of 7 out-of-control children of recently widowed Mr. Brown (Colin Firth).

Mr. Brown must answer to his Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) who has been financing his family’s livelihood and now commands him to marry within the month or she will cut off his sustenance. His bratty children have a genuine fear of losing their father should he marry the widowed Mrs. Quickly (Celia Imrie).

The children, who collectively have driven away 17 consecutive nannies, are led by their older brother Simon (Thomas Sangster). All 6 of the younger children—Tora (Eliza Bennett), Lily (Jennifer Rae Daykin), Eric (Raphael Coleman), Sebastian (Samuel Honywood), Christianna (Holly Gibbs) and Baby Agatha (Hebe Barnes and Zinnia Barnes)—face the same fate as Simon.
Enter Nanny McPhee with her magic and old-fashioned discipline that makes the children aware of their behavior, and soon the children become models of what to do and when to do it.

Beyond the obvious endearments, what makes this film excellent is two huge but subtle elements.

One is the guts of the writer and actress Emma Thompson who creates a character for herself that is repugnant upon first sight. She has two huge warts on her face and an enormous tooth cascading down over her lower lip. Nanny McPhee will repel you upon first look. Thompson’s acting skills allow her to be perfectly relaxed and confident despite her appearance. Her make-up was done by designer Peter King.

The other element is the discovery by the children that when they learn a major lesson, one of the warts disappears, and eventually through model behavior by the children, Nanny McPhee becomes better and better looking.
In many such films as this—the “Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews comes to mind—the nanny only influences the children. In Nanny McPhee, the children also become powerful agents for positive change, empowering them in the process. Never underestimate the insight and brilliance of Emma Thompson, the writer or actress.

A tip of the hat to Angela Lansbury in her role as well. Lansbury is a living legend who never goes out of character as Aunt Adelaide. From Broadway to Hollywood to television and back, Angela Lansbury is a British national treasure.

Nanny McPhee is based on the “Nurse Matilda” books by Christianna Brand. Emma Thompson said it took her 9 years to write the screenplay; it took her 5 years to write her Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility.
Trust me when I say that Nanny McPhee was worth the wait and then some. Watch Nanny McPhee and learn with your children some important lessons in human nature.

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley

After watching so many pay-for-view, big time, hyped fights on the tube and being totally disappointed, watching “Million Dollar Baby” was refreshing because I really got my money’s worth.

Million Dollar Baby is the story of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank), a 31-year-old woman who wants to achieve her idea of the American Dream: to become a professional boxer. She finds her way to Frankie Dunn’s (Clint Eastwood) gym only to get the cold shoulder.

Dunn, who barely stays afloat as a boxing trainer in a run-down gym, has never tasted real fame and fortune. Some of his fighters moved on to more aggressive managers and have earned more fame and fortune.

“Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman) acts as a go-between to bring Frankie and Maggie together. Dupris realizes Maggie is dead serious, a devout trainee and stubborn in her quest. The word “no” is not in Maggie’s vocabulary. Frankie eventually agrees to take her on, and she fights her way to a title shot.

Her quest to be a champion takes a heart-wrenching turn when she becomes 100% paralyzed during the title fight. Her opponent throws a cheap-shot punch after the bell ending a round, and Maggie collapses to the mat, hitting her head on the corner stool with neck-shattering force.

It is here that the drama really begins in earnest as Frankie must now deal with his fighter whose career abruptly ends.

The bond between Frankie and Maggie becomes a “family” issue as Maggie cannot deal with her misfortune; she attempts suicide but fails, and then enlists the help of Frankie to end her misery.

How Frankie, a Catholic who attends Mass almost every day, deals with Maggie’s request brings to light the controversial topic of euthanasia.

You must see this film to understand how emotional Frankie’s decision becomes. The issue of euthanasia is dealt with very sensitively and in a balanced way; it is worth the price of admission alone.

This is a good film that has the hardware to prove it. When the 2005 Academy Awards presentation ended, Million Dollar Baby, nominated for 7 Oscars, won 4, including Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Actress (Hillary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman as Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris).

Eastwood was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar but did not win in his role as Frankie Dunn.

Paul Haggis who wrote the screenplay was nominated for an Oscar. Million Dollar Baby is based on short stories by F. X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and “cut man” Jerry Boyd.

Some critics wore out their keyboard pads yipping about what was wrong with this film, but the award givers were far more generous. In addition to the 7 nominations and 4 Oscars, Million Dollar Baby also picked up a ton of awards (another 44 wins and 29 nominations).

I believe a lot of folks are just plain upset with Clint Eastwood for winning another two Oscars with Million Dollar Baby as a Director and Producer (Best Picture). Eastwood was not known as a great actor. His “spaghetti Westerns”—on  my personal favorites list– were not exactly Oscar material), but he has become a Director of note.

Eastwood also won two Oscars for “Unforgiven” (Best Director and Best Picture) as well as being nominated for Best Actor which he did not win. He was also nominated for Best Director and Best Picture for “Mystic River” but did not win.

Some people are just bummed out because he was considered a so-so actor and now has become a Director and Producer to be reckoned with.

Million Dollar Baby is a standout compared to much of the trash Hollywood is producing today. And Eastwood? I just like him. If I had to go to war or fight in an alley, I would want Clint Eastwood on my team and in my corner, anything less and you would not qualify as a red-blooded American male.

Ghost is everything that is right about a really scary movie. There are clearly good guys and bad guys, there is uncertainty about whether all of the good guys will be standing at the end of the movie, there is romance, there is sacrifice, there is redemption, there is the surreal to deal with, there is trying to stay grounded in reality, there is good and evil, and there is the eternal question of whether good will triumph in the end.

 Ghost begins innocently enough as Sam (Patrick Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore) have a romance heading toward marriage when he is killed by a thug during a mugging. Upon death Sam experiences an out-of-body awareness that he has not left this world, he can see as if he is here, but no one can see or hear him.

Sam’s out-of-body experience in Ghost works because Sam is not only an observer of what is happening, but he is a participant in the story line of the existing action.

Sam does not realize that Carl (Tony Goldwyn), his co-worker at the bank, has hired Willie (Rick Aviles) the mugger to relieve Sam of his wallet, which contains the passwords to the bank accounts of well-heeled customers. Carl needs the passwords because he is tied to a drug money laundering operation and will be killed if he does not accomplish the transaction on time.

Only later does Sam hear his friend Carl scold Willie for bungling the job by not getting the passwords and killing Sam in the process.

Sam then realizes that Molly is Carl and Willie’s next target because they think the passwords remain in Molly’s apartment. Sam is temporarily able to keep Molly out of harm’s way but must find a way to communicate to her the danger that lurks ahead.

His answer lies in the discovery of Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), a scam spiritualist who, much to her surprise and distress, can hear Sam but not see him. So it is up to Oda Mae, through Sam’s knowledge and credibility, to convince Molly that her life is in danger.

Oda Mae goes a little crazy with her new newfound ability, but eventually, with Sam’s help, warns Molly of her imminent danger. Carl wants the passwords and will kill Molly to get them, especially after Sam and Oda Mae thwart his ability to move money through the bank.

The ending to Ghost is simply too good and too surprising to share here, the suspense is spellbinding and the result is worth the trauma. Ghost is a romantic movie set as a drama with danger. Ghost also gets better as it goes along, so you need to hang in there to appreciate what happens.

Ghost is a movie we want to believe. We buy into it because of Sam and Molly’s relationship, we grab it and hold on when tragedy strikes, then we want to let go when danger sets in, and Ghost will not let us go, we are doomed to ride with the eventual fate of the story. The ending proves this is a great movie that is worth our attention, hence our fervent and subtle imagination is satisfied and at rest when the curtain closes.

Whoopi Goldberg manages to turn her performance into an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress, and the screenplay writer, Bruce Joel Rubin, also won an Oscar. This is one of the best screenplays I have seen, and Rubin certainly deserved to take home the hardware.

I almost gave Ghost a 4, my highest rating, but kept it at 3, reserving the right to raise its rating at a later date, something that is certain to happen should I have any out-of-body experiences in my future.

A classic tale of a Jewish family’s values, tradition and culture. The old world clashes with the new when Tevye’s three daughters all refuse arranged marriages as love leads them to choose their own partners in life, breaking with tradition and paternal obedience.

Their disobedience proves to be the least of this Jewish family’s problems and its community’s impending fate as the Czar forces the Jews out of Russian to a new land and a new life. Just one of many unforgettable lines from this excellent movie is when the Rabbi is asked if there is a prayer for the Czar, and he answers “God bless the Czar, and keep him far away from us.”

Excellent musical score, great acting and an even greater story line. Films about relationships and living life—with its struggle, moments of joy and unwanted challenges—have a special place in our hearts, as our ability to relate touches our heart and mind and soul.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Let me get to the most important thing first: Director Martin Scorsese won an Oscar for “The Departed”. Scorsese, one of the most accomplished directors of our era, has been nominated for 7 Oscars—5 for Best Director and 2 for Best Screenplay—before winning with The Departed. He had also received 7 Golden Globe nominations—6 for Best Director and 1 for Best Screenplay—and won for “Gangs of New York” before winning again for The Departed this year (2007).

The Departed is simply the best mob film since Mario Puzo’s original “Godfather” in 1972. Besides Scorsese, The Departed won for Best Picture, Best Screenplay (William Monahan) and Best Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), giving The Departed 4 Oscar wins to The Godfather’s 3 (Marlon Brando for Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). Mark Wahlberg was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Sgt. Sean Dignam.

The Departed also picked up 45 more wins and another 45 nominations, including another win for Scorsese (Best Director) and nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg) at the Golden Globes.

In short, The Departed brought home more hardware than a Home Depot shopping spree. The icing on the cake for Scorsese was his best box-office opening ever ($26 million), his highest grossing film ever with $132 million nationally and $288 million worldwide through March 2007, and $48 million more in VHS rentals. The film’s budget was $90 million.

The all-star cast of DiCaprio (Billy Costigan), Matt Damon (Sgt. Colin Sullivan), Jack Nicholson (Frank Costello), Wahlberg (Sgt. Sean Dignam), Martin Sheen (Capt. Oliver Queenan) and Alec Baldwin (Capt. George Ellerby) did not hurt a lick.

The story takes place in Boston where Irish Mob boss Frank Costello (Nicholson) embeds Colin Sullivan (Damon) as an informant with the Massachusetts State Police. Simultaneously, the State Police assign Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello’s crew. When both sides figure out the situation, it is left to Sullivan and Costigan to discover each other’s identity.

Along the way, 22 people get whacked (this is a Mob flick), the “f” word is used 237 times (about 235 times too many), and we get a study in relationship psychology as the only real love interest—Madolyn Madden—is a criminal psychiatrist who is wooed by both rivals. The Departed kept my attention riveted for 151 minutes.

The three main characters (Costello, Sullivan and Costigan) all show their anguish in balancing survival, winning and conquering the moment. There are apparently two versions of this film. I saw the longer version that is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, and some strong sexual content and drug material.

This film is not for children or young adults, not that young adults do not hear the same “f” word dozens a time a day at high schools all over the country, but who needs the “f” word 237 times in 2.5 hours? Nobody. I managed to tune out the cussing and concentrate on the story, acting and presentation that were excellent for an action flick with Mob presence.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Let me get right to it: The musical “Chicago” is absolutely everything it was cracked up to be.

Imagine a chanteuse named Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who kills both her husband and her sister when she finds them in bed together.

Imagine a bored wife named Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) who has an affair with a man she thinks can make her a star only to find out she has been had and is so mad she kills him.

Imagine them both in jail awaiting trial for murder with the eventual prospect of death row. Their only out is to create enough of a stir in the press to become famous and desired by an insatiable public in Chicago during the Roaring Twenties with its booze, nightclubs and all that jazz.

Now you have a musical prescription for Chicago.

Add in Matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah) who rules the jail with an iron hand that can only be greased with money, and Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), an attractive, slick attorney who always gets his client acquitted while making them into even bigger stars in jail than on the stage, and you have the ingredients for a fantastic story.

A superb cast of singers and dancers under the direction of Rob Marshall brought Chicago together in a super professional, entertaining romp that generated 13 Oscar nominations and won 6 in addition to 30 wins and 52 nominations from other award groups.

Winning Oscars at the Academy Awards were Catherine Zeta-Jones for Best Supporting Actress, Chicago for Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.

Oscar nominations went to Renee Zellweger for Best Actress, John C. Reilly (as Roxie’s husband Amos) for Best Supporting Actor, Queen Latifah as Best Supporting Actress, Rob Marshall as Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song “I Move On” and Best Writing.

 Watching Chicago made me realize how good Catherine Zeta-Jones is as a signer and dancer. Zeta-Jones is such a classic beauty that it is easy to get stuck just looking at her.

While I have never been a big fan of Renee Zellweger, perhaps because of her prior roles, I am now.

While Zeta-Jones had prior experience Zellweger apparently had no singing and dancing training prior to this film. Even Richard Gere surprised me. I have never thought of Gere as much of an actor, never mind a singer or dancer. He took tap dance lessons for three months to prepare for the part, and apparently won the role almost by default after John Travolta was offered the part several times.

After Chicago became Miramax’s highest grossing film generating $171 million at the domestic box office, Travolta apparently deeply regretted declining the part.

I still asked myself how Chicago could have been so good. A little research revealed that Chicago could have been famous for the people who did not get key parts as those who did. In addition to Travolta, Kevin Spacey, John Cusack and Hugh Jackman were considered for the part.

Auditioning for Catherine Zeta-Jones’ part as Velma Kelly were none other than Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Auditioning for Renee Zellweger’s role as Roxie Hart and some other parts in the film were Goldie Hawn, Kathy Bates, Rosie O’Donnell, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristin Chenoweth, Cameron Diaz, Whoopi Goldberg and Britney Spears.

Director Rob Marshall wanted Catherine Zeta-Jones to wear her natural long hair in the movie, but she insisted on the short bob, explaining that she did not want her hair to fall over her face and give people a reason to doubt that she did all of the dancing herself.

Apparently Zeta-Jones was originally approached to play the role of Roxie Hart but would not as she knew the character of Velma Kelly sang “All That Jazz” and she wanted to play that role so she could sing that song.

Charlize Theron was initially selected to play the role of Roxie Hart when another director was involved but lost out when Rob Marshall took over as director. The casting of Renee Zellweger proved to be a very wise choice.

Chicago is based on the book by Bob Fosse, the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the screenplay by Bill Condon.

Much of the dialog in the film is good, and funny. Here are some exhibits from the courtroom, and when the women on death row are retelling their misfortune:

Velma Kelly: Yes, it is.

Assistant District Attorney Martin Harrison: I submit this as Exhibit X – Roxie Hart’s diary!

Billy Flynn: I object! My client has never held a diary! And even if she did, this would be . . . invasion of privacy, and violation of the fourth amendment, and . . . and illegal search without a warrant!

Roxie Hart: Yeah, AND she broke the lock!

Billy Flynn: Miss Kelly, did you make a deal with Assistant D. A. Harrison to drop all charges against you in exchange for your testimony?

Velma Kelly: Why, sure. I’m not a complete idiot.

Liz: You know how some people have those habits that get you down? Like Bernie. Bernie liked to chew gum. No, not chew. POP. So I come home from work one night and I’m real irritated, and I’m looking for a little sympathy. And there’s Bernie, lying on the couch, drinking a beer and chewin’. No, not chewin’, POPPIN’. So I said “If you pop that gum one more time . . .” And he did. So I took the shotgun off the wall and fired two warning shots . . . into his head.

June: I’m standin’ in the kitchen, carving up a chicken for dinner, minding my own business, when in storms my husband, Wilbur, in a jealous rage. “You’ve been screwing the milkman,” he said. He was crazy, and he kept on screaming, “You’ve been screwing the milkman.” And then he ran into my knife . . . he ran into my knife ten times. There is nothing not to like about Chicago. If you love musicals, you will love Chicago.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

As a former record-setting championship runner, it is normal and natural for me to proclaim “Chariots of Fire” as simply the greatest running movie ever made. What is strange is famed movie critic Roger Ebert’s reaction to this film classic.

“I have no interest in running and am not a partisan in the British class system,” says Ebert. “Then why should I have been so deeply moved by ‘Chariots of Fire’, a British film that has running and class as its subjects? Like many great films, Chariots of Fire takes its nominal subjects as occasions for much larger statements about human nature.”

Ebert is drawn to Chariots of Fire like a bee to honey. He cannot resist the powerful presentation of this true story about two men of principles and integrity that use running as a magnet to attract followers to their cause.

One is Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a British man to the core and a Jew whose father is an immigrant and financier from Lithuania. The other is Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a Scot who is the son of missionaries in China. Both have the God-given gift of speed and seek to bring home medals from the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Abrahams feels the sting of discrimination because of his Jewish heritage and runs for the glory of Britain and the acceptance that he believes will make him whole; there is no question he is worthy. Aubrey Montague (Nicholas Farrell) is his close friend and confidant.

“You, Aubrey, are my most complete man,” says Abrahams. “You’re brave, compassionate, kind: a content man. That is your secret, contentment. I am 24 and I’ve never known it. I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what I am chasing.”

Abrahams is driven by his quest for a gold medal in the 100-meter dash. He will let nothing come between him and his goal, even the love of his life Sybil Gordon (Alice Krige). He enters Cambridge University and quickly becomes a campus standout by becoming the first person to successfully run around the Trinity Great Court from the first toll until the clock strikes 12. His competition is Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers) who pushes him to glory.

Abrahams tells his friend Aubrey Montague that he has never been beaten in competition. When he faces Eric Liddell for the first time he loses, and his immaturity surfaces when he declares to Sybil Gordon that “If I can’t win, I won’t run!” Sybil replies, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”

Fortunately, the famous trainer Sam Mussabini (Ian Holm) is at the race and tells Abrahams he is over striding and points out that over striding is the kiss of death for a sprinter. He reluctantly agrees to coach Abrahams so he can beat Liddell in the 100 meters.

Sam Mussabini tells Abrahams that Liddell is a fast gut runner who digs deep, but reminds him that a short sprint is run on nerves, and then adds that it’s tailor-made for neurotics.

Eric Liddell is more than fast, he is one of the fastest runners anywhere, a fact that is about to be demonstrated to the world in the Olympic games. Liddell is self-assured and confident and unlike, Abrahams, runs for the greater glory of God.

When his missionary sister Jennie Liddell (Cheryl Campbell) fears his focus will be lost on running, Eric replies that “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

In the Olympic games, both Abrahams and Liddell will clash with two very fast Americans, Charles Paddock—the world record holder in the 100 meters—and Jackson Scholz—a 200-meter sprinter.

When Eric Liddell learns that the preliminaries for the 100-meter dash will be run on Sunday, he refuses to compete. When confronted by the British Olympic Committee and Lord Cadogan reprimands him for his impertinence, Liddell replies that “The impertinence lies, sir, with those who seek to influence a man to deny his beliefs!”

At the 11th hour and 59th minute, Lord Andrew Lindsey intervenes with a solution: Since he has already won a bronze medal in the 200-meter race, let Liddell replace him in the 400-meter dash.

Liddell is then seen at church delivering a guest sermon and quotes the Bible prophetically from Isaiah, Chapter 40, Verse 31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (King James Version).

Chariots of Fire has an unknown cast with spectacular photography and music as well as many running scenes.

Roger Ebert keys in on the musical score, calling it “one of the most remarkable sound tracks of any film” with music by the Greek composer Vangelis. “His compositions . . . are as evocative, and as suited to the material, as the different but also perfectly matched scores (as) ‘Zorba the Greek’.”

Vangelis’ use of an electronic score may have been ill-suited to a period piece like Chariots of Fire, but it worked beyond anyone’s expectations, creating a new style in film scoring. He played all of the instruments, including synthesizers, acoustic piano, battery and percussion.

Against this nostalgic backdrop the movie opens with Lord Andrew Lindsey delivering the eulogy for Harold Abrahams funeral:

“Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honored in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honor the legend. Now there are just two of us—young Aubrey Montague and myself—who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.”

From this incredible opening follows the flashback and the narration that recounts the challenges and glory of Great Britain’s athletes at the 1924 Olympic Games. The next scene is the athletes running along the beach to what has become known as the Chariots of Fire theme that would later be released as a single in 1982 and top the charts in the United States.

In the end, Harold Abrahams would win the 100-meter dash, and would also win a silver medal as the opening leg (runner) on the 4×100 relay team. Eric Liddell—the Flying Scotsman—would win the 400-meter dash in an Olympic record 47.6 seconds, and also picked up a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash, won by Jackson Scholz with Charles Paddock second.

Among many poignant moments in Chariots of Fire is Eric Liddell at the starting line of the 400-meter dash and Jackson Scholz, who was not competing in the race, hands him a written note of text from the Bible. The quotation was from 1st Samuel, 2nd Chapter. Verse 30, “Those who honor me I will honor.” Liddell ran the 400 meters with the note in his hand and set an Olympic record.

Abrahams would marry his sweetheart and become the elder statesman of track and field in Britain. Liddell would return to China as a missionary with his physician brother Rob and ultimately be imprisoned during the Chinese-Japanese War in 1942.

Winston Churchill arranged for a prisoner exchange to get Liddell out of the camp (his family had left China before the hostilities started) but Liddell—ever faithful to the end in serving others—gave up his place to a pregnant mother. He died of a brain tumor in 1945, 5 months before the camp was liberated. Even today, 64 years later, he is honored as Scotland’s greatest athlete.

If you have a shred of integrity, principles, ethics, morals, honor, sensitivity or patriotism, you will love Chariots of Fire and be moved by its message.

If you do not, I cannot do anything for you but let you know that Chariots of Fire is more than the greatest running movie ever made, it is also one of the greatest films ever made.

Chariots of Fire, released in 1981, was a British film written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson. It would draw moviegoers everywhere by winning 4 Oscars at the Academy Awards for Best Picture (Producer David Puttman), Best Original Screenplay (Colin Welland), Best Original Music Score (Vangelis) and Best Costume Design (Milena Canonero).

Chariots of Fire was also nominated for Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Ian Holm as Sam Mussabini), Best Director (Hugh Hudson) and Best Film Editing (Terry Rawlings). It also had 12 other wins and 15 more nominations, including Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globe Awards.

Chariots of Fire remains among my list of the Top 10 films ever made. It passes my most stringent test of asking myself after seeing a film: Am I a better person for having seen this film? The answer is yes, a thousand times yes!

Even today, 26 years after seeing Chariots of Fire for the first time, I get goose bumps whenever I see it again.

Every time I see it I pull down my Cambridge Factfinder from my library shelf and stare at the 1924 Paris Olympic results. There I see three gold medal winners—Harold Abrahams of Great Britain in the 100-Meter Dash (10.6), Eric Liddell of Great Britain in the 400-Meter Dash (an Olympic record 47.6) and Douglas Lowe of Great Britain in the 800-Meter Run (1:52.4). Lowe was not in Colin Welland’s script.

I think of that glorious time when some few ran with hope in their hearts and wings on their heels.

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The Legality of
Roe v. Wade Screams
for Reconsideration

 

Copyright © 2021
by Ed Bagley

There are at least 61 million incidents of why the legitimacy of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v. Wade in 1973 should be struck down and reversed.

The screams of the 61 million fetuses already killed were never heard as they were deliberately executed in the womb of the mother and, if surviving to actual birth, they were killed in the operating room before being blessed with the gift of life.

Think for a moment about what is happening in this process and the carnage it is creating in our society, and the eventual impact it is having on our hearts, minds and souls.

The victim in this process is not only the unborn child, but also the mother who permitted it to happen, the father who helped create the child, his or her brothers and sisters, their potential grandparents, all living relatives, and all future generations of children who will have lost a companion and what the unborn child might have meant to the advancement of mankind, peace and harmony among our fellow living inhabitants who currently benefit from the gift of life.

Please do not be confused about thinking that life is not a gift. Life is a perfect gift that we cannot create on our own. Science has given us a better understanding and appreciation for the world we live in, but science cannot give us a living, breathing child. It is not only foolish but ignorant to think that we can plant a seed in the ground and a child will eventually arise from the soil.

Scientists cannot create sperm and an egg from nothing and produce a child. Without sperm and an egg, scientists are dead in the water before they ever start on the process involved.

While it is a generally accepted idea in civilized societies that killing someone is unacceptable if we are to coexist together; the chilling practice of Roe v. Wade allows a mother to kill her child rather than carry the child to term, let the child live, and raise the child as a mother. Citizens who murder another person after birth, who get caught and are tried in court and convicted, serve time in jail for their punishment. Roe v. Wade makes the deliberate killing of a child by abortion legal.

Roe v. Wade became a landmark decision when
7 of the 9 Justices at the United States Supreme Court created a majority decision to enact Roe v. Wade into law.

It is important to note that the governmental system of the United States of America is not a pure democracy—that is, rule by majority vote of its citizens who are registered to vote and vote during legal elections—but rather a constitutional system governed by the rule of law. The Constitution of the United States is the glue that holds the fabric of our system together with the help of the Bill of Rights, providing freedom and equality to its citizens who adhere to the laws of the land. Our judicial system provides the mechanism to make it work. At the top of our system of justice is the United States Supreme Court.

In the case of Roe v. Wade, 7 of the 9 Justices ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution provided a “right to privacy” that protected a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and therein lies the rub.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to African Americans and slaves who had been emancipated after the American Civil War, and included three major provisions: The Citizenship Clause, granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”, the Due Process Clause declaring that states may not deny any person “life, liberty or property” without Due Process of Law.

The 7 Justices that went along with this idea included Chief Justice Warren Burger, and Associate Justices Harry Blackmun, William Douglas, William Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall and Lewis Powell. The 2 dissenting Justices included William Rehnquist and Byron White.

The result of what the 7 concurring Justices were saying implied that women have more rights than an unborn child, more rights than men, husbands, parents, grandparents, and all living relatives. And, that women not only have more rights, but also have more special rights than anyone else on the face of the Earth. And, of course, that an unborn child in the mother’s womb has no rights whatsoever; that the unborn child can be killed at will by a decision of the mother without any other consideration whatsoever for the welfare of the child.

Therefore, what the father, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents or any other living relative might think merits no consideration whatsoever.

No one, of course, is even asking what God might think. If you have no spiritual development whatsoever, you could care less. You may even think there is no such thing as a God, and that we humans are in a long line of evolution descending from apes, who some scientists have determined have 96 percent of the same genes as humans.

And, and what? These are the same scientists who, if asked to create a tree from scratch, with no seed already in existence to plant, could not create a tree from scratch on their best day as a scientist, or if their life depended upon it.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was probably not the first person to point out that  “every perfect gift comes from God”. God, in the Christian faith, and more especially the Catholic faith, includes the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.

Science and human nature aside, what does God have to say about killing? One of the Ten Commandments says: “Thou shall not kill”.  The commandment cannot be said simpler with the same meaning.

This Commandment of God does not hedge. It does not say, “Thou shall not kill, except for unborn babies”.  The gift of life is a perfect gift from God. In life, we can be faced with an enemy trying to kill us, and we kill so we, or our family, will not be killed. To be certain, killing is never a positive activity. Only sorrow comes from killing; the victim will likely leave behind a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, or a partner on the battlefield.

Why a majority of Supreme Court Justices would think that killing an unborn, defenseless fetus in the womb who will, without hindering, become a live, breathing human being at birth, is beyond common sense, not to mention an offense against humanity and the sanctity of life. It could be noted that, at the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, all the Supreme Court Justices were men.

Do mothers, who decide to kill their baby, realize and appreciate the fact that they would not be alive to reproduce if their mother decided to abort them?

No one in a polite, educated society wants to hear about killing babies. People who believe abortion is a personal right of a woman lay away nights trying to describe the process in more acceptable terms, such as: reproductive freedom, a woman’s right to control her own body, terminating a pregnancy, freedom of choice, a woman’s own private medical decision, a procedure, access to health care, family planning, and choice; anything but the raw truth: killing, which does not make it any less permanent for the unborn child and victim.

Those who would deny or doubt the existence of God are in a long of people who are “pro choice” rather than “pro life’. It would almost be impossible to calculate the arrogance and self-righteousness of women and organizations that promote abortion. Only God has an accurate take on that.

Without spiritual development and belief in God, it is hard to appreciate and understand God’s three greatest gifts for us; 1) The gift of life, 2) The gift of free will to do as we please, and 3) The gift of faith.

We could be reminded that God is not pleased about killing unborn babies, primarily because He is the creator of the life we enjoy.

For women who decide that abortion is an answer to whatever issues they feel will complicate their life, there is forgiveness when they experience remorse over their action. God is a forgiving God, and a woman who is remorseful over her decision to abort her child will be forgiven by God if she recognizes her wrongdoing and asks God for forgiveness.

God is a merciful God and understands that no human in His creation is without sin. All humans are sinners because we are not God. The good news is that we can be forgiven when we experience remorse, and ask God for forgiveness.

It is interesting to note that only 1 in 50 babies born worldwide are born in a free country that is the United States of America. There is no other county with another system of government—like socialism, democratic socialism, communism, fascism or any other ism or dictatorship—more free and offering more opportunity to succeed than the United States of America.

It is a shame that we can kill 61+ million unborn babies and claim to think we are as humane as we think we are. We are not that humane, but neither is any other country on the face of the Earth. We could do better, and we could start by reversing Roe v. Wade.

Financial Thoughts
on Investing
by Warren Buffett

 

(Ed’s Note: The following condensation is from The Tao of Warren Buffett, written by Mary Buffett and David Clark and available for sale at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. I am always impressed by what Warren Buffett has to say and am doing this condensation to help promote their book.)

On Investing: Never be afraid to ask too much when selling offer too little when buying.
(Ed’s Note: How much you get from a sale or how much you have to pay when making a purchase determines whether you make or lose money and how rich you ultimately become.)

(Ed’s Note: For more of Warren Buffett’s advice go to the menu bar above and click on Financial Thoughts.)