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I am filing early this week because of a family wedding on Saturday up in Wine Country.

I turned 57 on Sept. 17th, and I don't care who knows it. I had several wonderful celebrations, including dinner with my wife at Le Bistro, my favorite French restaurant in Walnut Creek, where I had the menage a trois (steak with three kinds of sauce). I got several books and bunch of funny cards (including a really funny/weird one from my college friend B), and on Sunday celebrated with my daughters by attending the American Conservatory Theater production of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter (excellent), followed by dinner in the Haight near my daughter's apartment at Eos (also excellent).

I think of my mortality a lot, which is why I appreciated this from Richard Dalton. He had an interesting story about its provenance, but I think I'll just run the key part of his email:

"To live well, to laugh often, to love much, to gain the respect of intelligent people, to win the love of little children. To fill one's niche and accomplish one's task, to leave the world better than one finds it whether by an improved flower, a perfect poem or another life ennobled. to never lack appreciation of earth's beauty or fail to express it, to always look for the best in others, to give the best one has. To make one's life an inspiration and one's memory a benediction. This is success." --Bessie Stanley 1905

If you have some time, google this passage. Its story is fascinating.

By this standard, I've been a success. I don't want to die tomorrow, but if I do, I've lived a worthwhile life, and I have no regrets.

Political Briefs

Neal Vitale Reviews: The Informant!

2.5 stars out of 5

If nothing else, prolific director/producer Steven Soderbergh deserves credit for the volume and range of his work. His films ranges from the gritty, indie reality of Sex, Lies, And Videotape and The Girlfriend Experience, to mainstream fare like the Ocean's 11-13 series and Erin Brockovich, and on to quirkier pieces like SolarisThe Limey, and Che. The Informant! is yet another breed, a dark "comedy" built on a fictionalized version of a real-life price-fixing scandal at agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland in the 1990s. What starts off as a seemingly straightforward tale of whistle-blowing turns increasingly murky and bizarre as the informant inside ADM - a chubby, toupee-wearing biochemist and car lover named Matt Whitacre, played by Matt Damon - reveals lie after lie, deceit upon deceit, as the story unfolds. In the end, while the substantial wrongdoing by ADM is documented and punished, Whitacre's delusions, self-deceptions, and outlandish fabrications take center stage. But who cares? Damon is effective as the central character, but The Informant! is yet another film that makes you wonder why it was made.

Neal Vitale Reviews: 9

2.5 stars out of 5

Director Shane Acker has produced a visually arresting animated film in 9, but his storyline rings hollow and unsatisfying. A scientist has created sophisticated robotic weapons that have fallen into malevolent hands, leading to a cataclysmic war and the near-total destruction of human life. As this battle ensued, the scientist hand-made nine dolls, each carrying an aspect of his soul, in the hope of having those elements eventually reunited, to help in mankind's recovery. While the look of 9 is richly detailed and quite beautiful (in the dark vein of Producer Tim Burton's oeuvre), the theme is too abstract and overly complicated - and even a bit hackneyed, despite the lushly original surroundings - to ever truly resonate. A treat for the eyes, but little else.

My One and Only

3.5 stars out of 5

Even if you don't like George Hamilton, even if you can't imagine liking a biopic about his youth, go see this film. Renée Zellweger as Anne Deveraux is in every scene, and glitters in every scene she's in. Kevin Bacon as her philandering bandleader husband Dan Devereaux shines in what amounts to little more than a glorified cameo, projecting more bad boy charm than I knew he had. Logan Lerman as George Devereaux/Hamilton is good, but outshone by his elders. The film is short and sweet (108 minutes). It isn't based on a book, just stories Hamilton tells about a cross-country trip his mother took in 1953 after finding her husband in bed with another woman. I love period pieces, particularly period pieces set in my own youth. Since I was born in 1952, I don't remember this era, but I'm charmed to watch it on the screen. Great acting, great writing, great cinematography, funny, cute and worth an hour and a half.

Sullivan with Healthcare System Analysis, Oodles from Craig Reynolds, Two from Rae, Dan Grobstein File

Kevin Sullivan shares this article on Healthcare Systems Analysis from the Atlantic Monthly.

Craig Reynolds checks in:

My daughter Rae likes the Jimmy Fallon show for many reasons, including Rush Limbaugh Karaoke. She also found this: Obama's Health Care Plan in 4 minutes. She calls it "an amazing truncation of a very complex subject and only in > four minutes!"

Dan Grobstein File

From The New York Times:

The Scourge Persists

The fact that a black man is in the White House has so unsettled much
of white America that the lid is coming off the racism that had been
simmering all along.

A New News Site in San Francisco

The Bay Area news project says it wants to fill some of the vacuum
left by the downsizing of the local newspapers.

Experts Awed by Anglo-Saxon Treasure

An amateur treasure hunter prowling English farmland with a metal
detector found a massive collection of gold and silver.

Political Briefs

Health Care Briefs

911 Briefs

Just Plain Briefs

Wolfe offers two, Best News Blooper Ever, H Powered Locomotives, Keillor's Stroke, Dalton on War vs. Health

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe wants to know How Much You Know About The Late Stanley Kaplan, of SAT prep fame. Also, she updates Up The Down Staircase.

Best TV News Blooper Ever.

Craig Reynolds was reminded of our old journalism professor, Edwin Diamond, and an article he wrote early in his career about Atomic Powered locomotives, by this story about Hydrogen Powered Trains.

In case you missed it, Garrison Keillor suffered a minor stroke.

Richard Dalton checks in:

In the President's speech before Congress on health care, he mentioned that the estimated cost of $900 billion would be less than the Iraq War. I just accessed the Cost of War Web site (which I hadn't done in some time) and found the cost of both The Iraq and Afghan wars to be $908,918,968,674. That's the ever-increasing number that does not, unfortunately, include the FY2010 budget request for an additional $130 million.

So Obama's statement may not have been completely accurate, but it does show how much we have been willing to spend on two wars in tiny countries half way around the world since 2001. It is doubly ironic, considering this weekend's demonstrations in Washington DC, decrying too much government spending.

Dan Grobstein File

The GOP is lying when it says it is fiscally conservative.

  • ARTS | September 12, 2009
    Larry Gelbart, Comedy Writer, Dies at 81
    Larry Gelbart was in select company among comedy writers, achieving success in both film and television as well as on stage.
  • DINING & WINE | September 09, 2009
    Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans
    They might seem like kids' stuff, but a sense of fun - and built-in portion control - have helped make the Japanese lunches called bento boxes increasingly popular with adults in the United States.
  • Joe Wilson has Tricare. Shouldn't people who aren't retired Army National Guard colonels have access to similar care?