Happy Remembrances: Archives

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June 24, 2008

George Carlin: 05/12/37 - 06/22/08 genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances

George Carlin died on Sunday. He was one of a kind and the comic world can never replace him. I've included some notable quotations below. However, they are only a small sampling since virtually every line he uttered was worth noting.

I thought the video below was worth posting. It contains excerpts of Carlin discussing death during a couple of his shows. It was one of the many sensitive subjects that Carlin wasn't afraid to tackle. I can only hope that his insights brought him comfort during his final days.

I'm sure I'll be watching more of his many performances in the coming days in the hopes of absorbing more of his many insightful observations.

George Carlin Quotations:

"I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it."

"Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist"

"By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth"

"When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?"

"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little"

"Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time."

"There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past."

"I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me...they're cramming for their final exam."

"I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."

"You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans."

"If churches want to play the game of politics, let them pay admission like everyone else."

"The two big mistakes were the belief in a sky god -- that there's a man in the sky with 10 things he doesn't want you to do and you'll burn for a long time if you do them -- and private property, which I think is at the core of our failure as a species. That's the source of my indignations, my dissatisfactions, however it comes out on the stage. I feel betrayed by the people I'm part of, these creatures, these magnificent creatures."

"I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."

Tagged as: Comedian, Death, George Carlin, Humor

Daniel DiRito | June 24, 2008 | 5:53 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 1, 2008

Marilyn Monroe Would Have Been 82 Years Old Today genre: Happy Remembrances

MarilynMonroe.jpg

Tagged as: JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean Baker, Norma Jean Mortenson, RFK

Daniel DiRito | June 1, 2008 | 8:53 AM | link | Comments (0)
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February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr.: 11/24/25 - 02/27/08 genre: Happy Remembrances & Video-Philes

William F. Buckley, Jr. has died at the age of 82. I always found it fascinating to listen when Buckley spoke. Much of what he said, for me, walked the fine line between intellectual genius and laugh out loud temerity. Given the breadth of his intellect, I often wondered how often he made comments simply for the sporting value they might afford.

Some time ago, I did a posting that was intended to mimic Buckley's expansive use of language and to satirize current news and events. At the time, I chose the President's questionable handling of the war in Iraq as the topic. Basically, I created a question and followed it up with my tongue-in-cheek version of an answer William F. Buckley might have given.

With that said, the following was my imaginary question:

What would Bill Buckley say about the apparent inability of President Bush to acknowledge mistakes made in the execution of the war in Iraq and his unwillingness to move forward with evaluating alternative plans?

And my fabricated answer was:

The President, while seemingly embrangled in a sempiternal belligerency, appears to be ensnared by the conflation of narcissistic ideation and a religiose neocolonialist predisposition.

In truth, Buckley did conclude that the war in Iraq was a failure and stated the following in that regard:

"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed - different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat."

With Mr. Buckley's passing, we'll only be able to imagine his responses to the issues that may confront humanity in the future. Regardless of one's political persuasion, that will certainly present a measurable void.

The following is a compilation of some of Buckley's notable quotations:

William F. Buckley, Jr., Gratitude:

Materialistic democracy beckons every man to make himself a king; republican citizenship incites every man to be a knight. National service, like gravity, is something we could accustom ourselves to, and grow to love.

William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism:

I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.

Sep. 08, 1964 - from his column in National Review:

I profoundly believe it takes a lot of practice to become a moral slob.

Nov. 01, 1997 - from a speech delivered to the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine:

We are so concerned to flatter the majority that we lose sight of how very often it is necessary, in order to preserve freedom for the minority, let alone for the individual, to face that majority down.

William F. Buckley, Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495:

Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy ... and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with 'scientific support' ... fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. ... The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.

"All that is good is not embodied in the law; and all that is evil is not proscribed by the law. A well-disciplined society needs few laws; but it needs strong mores."

"If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all."

"Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years."

The following video offers a sampling of Buckley's many appearances on the Charlie Rose Show.

Charlie Rose: A Retrospective On William F. Buckley, Jr.

Tagged as: Charlie Rose, Death, Drug War, Humor, Iraq, Jr., National Review, Up From Liberalism, William F. Buckley

Daniel DiRito | February 27, 2008 | 12:34 PM | link | Comments (2)
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January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger: 04/04/79 - 01/22/08 genre: Happy Remembrances & Tuned Out & Video-Philes

Sadly, we never know for sure when death will arrive...some of us live well into our old age having traveled far and wide...some of us depart in the middle of the journey...some of us are still undecided about which journey to take. It's doubtful we'll ever know for sure where Heath Ledger stood on that continuum.

We're left to hope the time he spent here was deliberate and meaningful...we're left to imagine our own alternate endings...but we're also lucky to have had the opportunity to observe the trajectory of his emerging career. Fortunately, as we each take a moment to visualize our preferred final scene for his life's script, we have a rich blueprint to build upon.

I posted the following video shortly after the release of Brokeback Mountain. This video is a compilation of scenes from Brokeback Mountain set to the James Blunt song "Goodbye My Lover", one of the best songs (IMO) off of his CD Back To Bedlam. It seems a fitting tribute.

Tagged as: Brokeback Mountain, Death, Goodbye My Lover, Heath Ledger, James Blunt

Daniel DiRito | January 23, 2008 | 7:11 PM | link | Comments (0)
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January 20, 2008

Suzanne Pleshette - 01/31/37 - 01/19/08 genre: Happy Remembrances

Suzanne Pleshette died at her home in Los Angeles on Saturday at the age of 70. The actress was scheduled to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a matter of days.

Pleshette saw herself as an actress and not as a star and that clearly afforded her a long and productive career. She is best known for playing Emily Hartley, the TV wife of Bob Newhart, but she also appeared on Broadway and in numerous movies including The Birds and Rome Adventure.

With the passing of people I've known, there is always one prevailing trait that is seared in my memory. Sometimes it's a laugh or a look or a frequent mannerism. With Pleshette, I suspect her smoky voice will serve as that notable characteristic.

Anyone interested in an in-depth look at Pleshette should check out her interview at the Archive of American Television at the following link:

Archive of American Television

Suzanne Pleshette

Tagged as: Archive of American Television, Emily Hartley, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rome Adventure, Suzanne Pleshette, The Birds, The Bob Newhart Show

Daniel DiRito | January 20, 2008 | 10:16 PM | link | Comments (0)
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December 28, 2007

Endings & Beginnings: Not The Same Auld Lang Syne genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Rhyme-N-Reason & Tuned Out & Video-Philes

Life can be about symmetry or it can also be about irony...and occasionally it can be about both at the same time. As I've pondered the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008...looking for words to say goodbye to one year as well as to greet the new year...Dan Fogelberg's death came to mind as did his song "Same Old Lang Syne".

Both seemed to fit the moment as well as capture the essence that so often eludes us during the holidays...a realization that in the course of one year, life and death have traveled hand in hand. What one takes, the other returns...though the ledger never seems to satisfy as losses and gains are difficult to measure.

Life and death, one year stacked upon another, the constant parade of seasons...all mark endings and beginnings though none are quite the same...yet each prevails when it arrives. Some bring symmetry, some bring irony, some bring neither, and some bring both.

Regardless, at the end of any journey, all that remains are the stories we tell. As we enter 2008, may your stories be filled with joy, may your losses leave you with treasured tales of times gone by, and may you gain the wisdom to accept what yesterday has brought...as well as what tomorrow may bring.

The following video is a holiday greeting set to Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne". Below it is a poem I wrote many years back while seeking to make sense of the countless dichotomies found in this existence. Today, I simply accept that their constance represents the nature of our uniquely human story.

Season's Greetings

Oh snow,
Weighted,
Not desired,
That which blankets...
Smothers fire.
Be gone now
it is said...
Life shall come;
remove the dead.
Beneath the snow,
The seed survives...
Till when at last,
the sun shall rise.
The freezing wanes
Where life begins...
The water flows,
We start again.
Blazing colors
Will fill our eyes...
Death at bay;
The living thrive.
Visions fury,
Burning bright...
But who shall lead
The blind to light?

Tagged as: 2007, 2008, Auld Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg, Death, Holiday, Music, New Year, Poetry, Same Old Lang Syne, Season's Greetings

Daniel DiRito | December 28, 2007 | 4:08 PM | link | Comments (0)
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November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Wish genre: Happy Remembrances & Rhyme-N-Reason & Snapshot Thoughts

I'm not a big fan of the way we celebrate holidays...especially the focus that is placed on the commercial aspects. In my own way, I have made them all about a celebration of people I have known who are no longer here. Thanksgiving for me is about my friend Mike who died on October 27, 1995. The following poem is from a card Mike made before he died that he asked me to send out on Thanksgiving if it turned out that he didn't live that long.

Maybe that's when I began to make holidays about the dead. In making cards to send out even after he died, Mike kept giving of himself even though he was no longer with us. His insightful gesture captured the essence of remembrance...found in our ability to give and receive even though we no longer share the same existence...but all the while sharing something far more valuable...our humanity. I am thankful to have known Mike and so many others who have left this world and I celebrate them all each day.

Fountain in Auckland - 2005

A man searched for a gift to give
To a troubled, divided and despairing world
A token to radiate his unfailing hope
For better things, for better times;
A gift to becalm the tormented soul
Of a world suffering from its own inhumanities
A gesture, perhaps, to give a voice
To his fervent yearning for a mood of peace;
Something to express what he could not say:
That universal love for man must survive.
Yet he found no gift, no token, no gesture -
Nothing in the shops, nothing in the faces,
And wept at the futility of his search,
Not knowing he had it - the gift of himself.

Daniel DiRito | November 21, 2007 | 8:19 PM | link | Comments (0)
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November 13, 2007

Norman Mailer's Prescient Thoughts On The Iraq War genre: Happy Remembrances & Just Jihad & Polispeak

While seeking a fitting tribute to Norman Mailer given his recent death, I stumbled upon the following video clips from his appearance on Charlie Rose in early 2003. On the show, Mailer provides a reasoned analysis of the merits and pitfalls of invading Iraq. Mailer's comments harken to the concerns raised by Niall Ferguson in this prior Thought Theater posting.

Both men have a keen understanding of the objectives of the Bush Doctrine...though they approach it from different perspectives. Ferguson offers the views of a studied historian and Mailer provides the perspective of a prescient thinker capable of drawing insightful and informative connections frequently missed by those in the mainstream. Notwithstanding, both men appear to reach the same conclusion...a conclusion which suggests that the active exportation of democracy is likely a futile effort. Both men also touch upon the flawed logic behind the initiation of preemptive military actions in response to perceived fears.

Mailer's words in 2003 ought to instruct us well into the future and offer an important warning about the risks of losing the nobility of democracy and acceding to the lure of fascism. His comment that an invasion of Iraq is apt to be the start of something that we cannot finish without changing the nature of American democracy may someday be hailed as one of the most omniscient and prevailing perceptions offered in modern American history.

His anticipatory thoughts on Iraq with regard to it's position in the world political equation are astounding and when they are compared with the logic of the neoconservatives, his amazing visionary capabilities are illuminated. His conclusion about the nature of democracy is nothing short of brilliant and a rational review of the status of our efforts to export it to Iraq highlight the very concerns Mailer raised when he suggested that the Bush administration ultimately sought to change the nature of American life. Nearly five years after Mailer offered these thoughts, one would be hard pressed to refute his hypothesis or the ample evidence of an eroding democracy at home which exists to support it.

Flawed as he was, the magnitude of Mailer's life...and what was lost with his death...will undoubtedly become more evident with the passage of time.

Norman Mailer Discusses Iraq With Charlie Rose - Part One

Norman Mailer Discusses Iraq With Charlie Rose - Part Two

Tagged as: Charlie Rose, Democracy, George W. Bush, Iraq, Neoconservatism, Niall Ferguson, Norman Mailer

Daniel DiRito | November 13, 2007 | 10:27 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 28, 2007

Sad Death Explains Our Surrender To Homogeneity? genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Six Degrees of Speculation

They All Looked Just The Same

Robin Prosser was fifty years old when she ended her life. By all accounts her life was filled with debilitating pain...first the physical pain of an "immunosuppresive disorder" and then the emotional pain that accompanied her efforts to utilize her medical marijuana license to obtain the drug that reportedly eased her constant discomfort.

She was a high-profile campaigner for the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, and like others, she was dismayed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drug agents could still arrest sick people using marijuana, even in states that legalized its use.

The ruling came to haunt Prosser in late March, when DEA agents seized less than a half ounce of marijuana sent to her by her registered caregiver in Flathead County.

At the time, the DEA special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain Field Division said federal agents were “protecting people from their own state laws" by seizing such shipments.

“I feel immensely let down," Prosser would write a few months later, in a guest opinion for the Billings Gazette published July 28. “I have no safety, no protection, no help just to survive in a little less pain. I can't even get a job due to my medical marijuana use - can't pass a drug test."

Federal prosecutors declined to charge Prosser, but fear spread through the system of marijuana distribution set up in the wake of the medical marijuana act. Friends said Prosser turned to other sources for marijuana, but found problems nearly everywhere she turned.

A number of bloggers have written about Prosser's tragic death and while the topics of medical marijuana and the "war on drugs" warrant discussion, I think a larger issue merits even more attention. That issue is the growing need to view others through a template which relies upon the belief that society is best served when homogeneity is embraced and enforced.

The problem begins with a reliance upon statistics and soon morphs into the conclusion that all situations and all individuals can be understood by looking at the prevailing data to determine what is acceptable and what must be rejected. While this model serves us well with regards to the approval of drugs by the FDA; it fails miserably when attempting to predict each individuals capacity to lead a functional life...especially when that life is lived outside the norm.

At its worst, I believe that such a construct not only leads to a mind set which demands similitude; but it encourages the mediocrity that seems to have become a burgeoning affliction in this country. Differentness seems to have become a disquieting condition which has led us to react with fear to all that is outside the safe confines of the normative range of behaviors.

As I read the many comments on the Prosser situation, I was struck by the countless assertions of certainty regarding the use of marijuana and the propensity to cite the evidence proffered by the government in its ongoing opposition to marijuana. Here's the problem. For every study that offers a rationale to prevent its use, there are ten that document the dangers of consuming alcohol. Unfortunately, the powers that be support the notion that adults can and will make reasoned decisions with regard to their use of alcohol while prohibiting those same adults from doing so with marijuana and other recreational drugs.

The individuals who so boldly claim that marijuana is a gateway drug...a drug which can lead to depression...a drug whose use is indicative of a surrender to the travails faced by the individual...are the same individuals who believe they can judiciously manage their own use of alcohol...a drug with all of the same contraindications.

Let me be clear...my comparison to alcohol is not offered as a justification for the legalization of marijuana even though it may be a compelling argument. I offer the comparison to highlight the inconsistency inherent in the arguments which attempt to apply statistical data without regard for the varying abilities of the individual. The exceptionalism which is so often applied to America by Americans is mysteriously absent when looking at individuals who operate outside the safe zone of the proverbial bell curve.

Truth be told, the exceptional traits which we so frequently attribute to this nation clearly resulted from the efforts of individuals who refused to be confined by conventionality and the prescribed standards we now cling to with more unfounded fears than those associated with a child's reliance upon a security blanket. Each submission to our fears is another piece of evidence that the average American identity grows ever more fragile. That fragility also facilitates the flattening of the curve and an across the board free fall towards a safe but shared inferiority.

As we acquiesce to all that defines a nanny state, we are fast becoming a nation of sniping adult children who succumb to pettiness because it is far easier than confronting the many complex discriminations that accompany the human condition. In our rush to mediocrity, we hasten the demise of the creative spirit, we stifle those who would otherwise take the risks that have allowed us to exceed all others, and we force the Robin Prosser's of the world to believe that their very existence is so antagonistic that they can no longer live amongst us.

When we allow the pain of our irrational fears to exceed our ability to empathize with those in our midst who are suffering tangible tragedy we move ever closer to the very demise we imagine may come if we were to make allowances for our differences. Robin Prosser is no longer living...but we who remain are less alive each time we foster the intolerance we're unable or unwilling to overcome.

Tagged as: Drug Enforcement Agency, Medical Marijuana, Robin Prosser, Suicide

Daniel DiRito | October 28, 2007 | 11:31 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau: 03/22/23 to 09/22/07 genre: Happy Remembrances & Video-Philes

While we live in a fully visual world, it is often dominated by what is spoken. Rarely do we communicate without words...and when we do, it can frequently demonstrate the most poignant expression of our humanity...be it a smile, a tear, or two people holding hands. Meaningful moments of silence are rare...and with the passing of Marcel Marceau, they become even more infrequent.

My first memories of Marceau date back to my childhood. I can recall the first time I saw Marcel Marceau perform on television...and I remember being mesmerized by the silent images. Today, as an adult, it seems clear that his appeal to me and all children is as it should be.

Children first learn to understand the world through visual observations. As such, the world is a limitless source of fascination. In seeing Marceau perform, the visual world was suddenly transformed into a cognitive experience...a morphing of the obvious into the sublime.

In a world where words have become pedestrian, pantomime remains an art of refinement...an effort to simplify and exemplify...yet clearly an equation whereby less becomes more. If death is the silencing of a loved one, what are we to conclude about the passing of a silent one? I'm not sure I can answer my question...but it crossed my mind to wonder if he who spoke less leaves more?

Tagged as: Childhood, Death, Marcel Marceau, Pantomime

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2007 | 10:31 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 10, 2007

9/11: "The Falling Man" Should Teach Us To Soar genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Video-Philes

There are numerous ways to remember 9/11...all of which undoubtedly bring back difficult memories of a horrific day and the many vibrant lives which were ended far before their time. I chose to offer the following video of the documentary titled The Falling Man to commemorate this fateful day.

The documentary chronicles what was arguably the most troubling photograph taken on September 11, 2001...the photograph of a man falling from the World Trade Center. The film follows the search to identify this man and tell his story...and in so doing it succeeds in reminding us that there are many ways to understand, interpret, and experience the end of life.

Most of us will never be forced to ponder the decision which was made by the falling man and numerous other individuals on September 11th...a day which started like every other day...a day that forced thousands to face the end of life without the time to prepare... a day that, in many instances, ended without the opportunity to say goodbye to those they loved. Nothing could have prepared them for such a day.

As the documentary reaches its conclusion, the sister of the falling man offers her take on the photo and the act it captured...and frankly, her words are not only bittersweet; they are a testament to the breathtaking beauty and the unyielding uncertainty which accompany the human experience. The falling man, and all who left this world so suddenly, should serve as our constant reminder that this life is a gift to treasure.

Tagged as: 9/11, Death, New York City, September 11, Terrorism, World Trade Center

Daniel DiRito | September 10, 2007 | 11:17 PM | link | Comments (0)
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September 6, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti: 10/12/35 to 09/06/07 genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Video-Philes

One would be hard pressed to have missed the passing of Luciano Pavarotti, one of history's best known tenors. I felt the following two videos were an appropriate tribute to a man who often seemed larger than life.

The first video is of an artist sketching a picture of Pavarotti. The video is set to the tenor's singing of Ave Maria. I thought it seemed a fitting exchange for something to be created while one pondered something lost.

The second video is from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Pavarotti sang his signature song, Nessun Dorma from Puccini's opera Turandot, in this final public performance. The audience gave the singer a lengthy and sustained standing ovation.

Luciano Pavarotti - Ave Maria

Luciano Pavarotti Sings "Nessun Dorma" - 2006 Torino Olympics

Tagged as: 2006 Torino Olympics, Ave Maria, Luciano Pavarotti, Nessun Dorma

Daniel DiRito | September 6, 2007 | 6:48 PM | link | Comments (0)
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September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day America genre: Happy Remembrances & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

I thought a few vintage posters and a little humor were appropriate this Labor Day. Here's hoping the day was less about labor and more about love for each of you.

Happy Labor Day

Tagged as: Holiday, Labor Day, USA

Daniel DiRito | September 3, 2007 | 9:11 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 29, 2007

The Queen Of Mean Is Still Pulling Strings genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Queen Of Mean

In truth, I could care less about the estate of Leona Helmsley...but upon reading some of the instructions from her will on the internet this morning, I had to comment about the person that would leave these details and directives. Given the terms of the will, Helmsley, known unaffectionately as "The Queen Of Mean", lived up to her nickname...even after her death.

NEW YORK - Leona Helmsley’s dog will continue to live an opulent life, and then be buried alongside her in a mausoleum. But two of Helmsley’s grandchildren got nothing from the late luxury hotelier and real estate billionaire’s estate.

Helmsley left her beloved white Maltese, named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund, according to her will, which was made public Tuesday in surrogate court.

She also left millions for her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was named to care for Trouble in her absence, as well as two of four grandchildren from her late son Jay Panzirer — so long as they visit their father’s grave site once each calendar year.

Otherwise, she wrote, neither will get a penny of the $5 million she left for each.

Helmsley left nothing to two of Jay Panzirer’s other children — Craig and Meegan Panzirer — for “reasons that are known to them," she wrote.

“I direct that when my dog, Trouble, dies, her remains shall be buried next to my remains in the Helmsley mausoleum," Helmsley wrote in her will.

The mausoleum, she ordered, must be “washed or steam-cleaned at least once a year." She left behind $3 million for the upkeep of her final resting place in Westchester County, where she is buried with her husband, Harry Helmsley.

She also left her chauffeur, Nicholas Celea, $100,000.

OK, I'll be the first to acknowledge that its a free country and Helmsley was entitled to do as she saw fit. I'll even give her the benefit of the doubt and agree that she actually worked to earn some of the money held in her estate. Beyond that, I'm not sure I can find any other redeeming remarks to make about a woman who obviously spent the better part of her life angry, bitter, and vindictive.

No doubt Helmsley's will was designed to fulfill each and every intention found in the expression, "her reach extended beyond the grave". Such rancor is not only reprehensible, it is a restive reminder of a woman who apparently lacked the ability to see beyond her own self-absorbed persona...a woman who defined her worth solely in terms of wealth...and likely used that wealth to manipulate all those who came within striking distance of the virtual viper.

At the same time, I can't help but think that Helmsley was a fool...perhaps a judgment I have no authority to make...but one I'll proceed to offer with the confidence that my conclusion won't be challenged by a long line of Helmsley apologists and defenders.

Assuming the reports are accurate that the estate was worth approximately $2.5 billion...the money designated for friends, family, her chauffeur, her canine confidante, and, of course, the upkeep of her granite gravesite...is as best I can tell a paltry sum of just over 35 million, not even two percent of her estate.

In fact, the money spent on her final resting place...when combined with the funds designated for its upkeep as well as the dollars left to her dog...almost matches all the money she left to living relatives.

To understand my calling Helmsley a fool, one story will suffice to illustrate my assertion. A few years back, Helmsley decided to relocate the remains of her husband. The decision was precipitated when the cemetery elected to construct a large group mausoleum that obstructed the view from the family plot.

Leona Helmsley, for years the imperious head of a multibillion-dollar real estate and hotel empire, will spend eternity in a $1.4 million suburban mausoleum with a magnificent view, alongside her beloved husband, Harry.

She previously moved her husband's remains after becoming dissatisfied with his old neighborhood.

The expansive family mausoleum at Woodlawn was memorably described as a "tomb with a view," but the sweeping vista disappeared when a public mausoleum -- potentially filled with those "little people" who paid taxes -- went up nearby three years ago.

An irate Leona called the new construction "a disgrace," and resolved to relocate the remains of her husband and her son, Jay Panzirer.

She purchased a piece of land in Sleepy Hollow to construct a new mausoleum -- and quickly alienated her husband's new, living neighbors. A wooded section of the cemetery was stripped clean of trees in summer 2005.

The new construction lacked permits, and village officials quickly shut down the project, Zegarelli said.

The two sides worked out their differences -- fines were paid and donations were made by the Helmsley group to repair some of the damage. Last August, the mausoleum was approved for the reinterment.

Please note the final paragraph...the one in which the true nature of Helmsley is exposed. Specifically, in the words, "fines were paid and donations were made", the essence of Helmsley is revealed. Unwilling to see beyond her own desires and demands and unable to resolve issues amenably...Helmsley relied upon her money to buy the cooperation and congeniality of those she encountered.

Unfortunately, such a strategy rarely works with ones own family members...and the fact that she disinherited two of her grandchildren affirms that reality. Regardless, even in death Helmsley held fast to her beliefs and left the vast majority of her wealth to charity...and in so doing she confirmed herself to be a fool. Let me explain.

Anyone who has been around fundraising or worked with charitable organizations knows that those charged with the task of finding and finagling the necessary financial backing are masterful manipulators...and I say as much with no malice since it is a required skill. In my estimation, those who are successful at fundraising must be regarded as capable and competent pseudo-psychologists...and they must have the patience of Job.

Sadly, all too often, people like Helmsley succumb to the serendipitous swooning of these savvy shills...all the while believing that they are receiving the respect and the required restraint they desire and demand...but cannot obtain from those they encounter in the regular course of events...real life people who are often relatives with real feelings which are, on occasion, released in raw and unedited exchanges.

As we know, for a woman like Helmsley, there is little room for give and take...a debilitating condition which I believe she regularly exhibited...though I confess that I do not know the particular dynamics of its origin in her personality. Notwithstanding, this well-documented trait likely made her the ideal candidate for the donation dance...an artful exchange enacted by those able to convey the belief that one's partner is the ideal lead...while all the while directing their every step until such time as they are furtively separated from the sought after and subtly solicited funds.

At the end of this dance, people like Helmsley are unconsciously convinced that what they have taken in the way of psychic soothing far exceeds the gift they give...and the process of give and take has been reduced to little more than a primal pampering reminiscent of the comforting coos of a nurturing nanny.

In designating that the lions share of her fortune be distributed through the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust, Helmsley departed this life still enamored with the faulty notion that charity does not and will not begin at home. Fortunately, those strangers who may benefit from her great wealth will not be required to dance with the devilish diva. Tragically, her family and friends who acquiesced to her every whim will remain relegated to the sidelines...still dancing to the demands of a damaged and domineering demagogue.

Tagged as: Empire State Building, Harry Helmsley, Leona Helmsley, The Queen Of Mean, Trouble

Daniel DiRito | August 29, 2007 | 9:42 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 2, 2007

Thoughts On The Loss Of Life In Minnesota genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Hip-Gnosis

The Light Remains

Tragedy elicits many responses...often automatic reactions that we rarely seek to understand...and that is as it should be given the shocking nature of the assault upon our psyche and the overwhelming grief that will certainly follow.

As I watched the unfolding of the bridge collapse in Minnesota and the devastation that will undoubtedly accompany the sudden loss of vibrant lives, I began to think about the function of faith and the impact of a belief in god during such moments of distress.

As a person who grew up closely affiliated with Catholicism...but no longer believes in any conventional construct of god...I often reflect upon the differences between my reactions to tragedy then and now. Before expanding on these thoughts, let me first provide some background information.

Several years back, I found myself in the midst of a difficult situation...one of those moments where one is uncertain how one will be able to survive the magnitude of the event...a period of time we've all experienced where we feel that our ability to hold our lives together is being challenged.

As I was lying in bed, unable to relax and enduring waves of anxiety along with rapid fluctuations of being hot and cold, I found myself praying for god to intervene...something I suspect we've all done and a practice that can often bring comfort.

Suddenly, out of the blue, I became angry with myself and what I perceived to be a pattern of living that no longer resonated and, more importantly, no longer brought comfort. There I was, asking god's help and feeling helpless and I just stopped. Instantly, I vowed to stop praying, to stop relying upon an external mechanism to save me from my moments of despair...to begin to accept the nature of this human existence, and to find the strength to endure...on my own.

Thus began my journey away from faith and towards facing the complexities of life more bravely and without the need to invoke the assistance of a higher being. It’s important that I explain my thought process. My decision wasn't born of anger with the god I had believed in for many years. In fact, I felt ashamed for having asked god's help so often and I tried to imagine him as a friend whose role had become little more than the comforter...the go to guy that everyone calls upon in times of trouble...and I decided it was wrong and that it must cease.

Over time, I came to believe that in letting go of god, I had actually become a better person...and if he did exist, my actions better honored the friendship and kinship he had provided. I accepted responsibility for my life...regardless of its origin or its inevitable end...and I faced both with a resolve to avoid the instinct to succumb to fear.

In doing so, I feel certain that if there is a god, I am finally living as he would have wanted...exercising my free will and finding harmony with the random nature of the world in which I live...all the while accepting that mortality is part of this wondrous journey.

Coming back to the disaster in Minnesota, both now with my new perspective, as well as back then with my prior beliefs, I find great sadness in the loss of life...but it has taken on a new meaning for me. While the pain is the same, I understand and accept that the life we know and live here on this earth is a sacred gift...regardless of how it was received...that must be celebrated...and even though it comes to an end...for us and for those we love...it lives on if we live it well...and finally, when we leave this life with grace, it has no doubt been well lived and will certainly be well remembered.

As we say goodbye to those lost in Minnesota, I celebrate their lives and I honor their memories. Today, I accept what I can know and I know what I can accept. In that harmony, I am humbled by both the beauty and the immense uncertainty of the human condition.

Tagged as: Atheism, Bridge Failure, Death, God, Minnesota, Mortality, Religion

Daniel DiRito | August 2, 2007 | 12:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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