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Gratitude and Thanksgiving

For 18 years, I have been running variations of the same Thanksgiving column, listing the things for which I am thankful. A variety of events during the last several years led me to stop posting regular blog entries and start writing  regular entries in a gratitude journal, which got me to thinking of the difference between thankful  and grateful. Google isn't much help:

Grateful: feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.
Thankful: pleased and relieved, grateful

So, basically, it treats the words as synonymous. I do still give thanks for my health and my family. I am also grateful to have them in my life. I am grateful to be of use, to my family and others. I am grateful for the love I get and the love I have an opportunity to give. I am grateful that my medical problems are all treatable. Every day, I am grateful to be here, because every minute I have had since January 2007 has been a gift. I cherish that gift. I don't need Clarence the Angel to show me that this is a wonderful life; unlike George Bailey, I have never for a moment doubted that the world is a better place for my being in it. I give thanks for my blessings every morning, and expect to do so for the rest of my life. And, yes, especially on Thanksgiving Day.

Finally, if you feel life has been dealing to you from the bottom of the deck, I recommend the practice of keeping a gratitude journal. Write down one or two things each day for which you are grateful. Big or small, serious or silly. You may find it helps you keep things in perspective; I know it has had that effect on me. Going back and rereading it sometimes can be an interesting and rewarding activity.

For all of you who are still left to read this now-occasional blog, Happy Thanksgiving!


If this sounds familiar, it is because, in the great tradition of Herb Caen and Jon Carroll (both now gone from the Chronicle and nearly forgotten), I am recycling my 12 previous Thanksgiving messages from 18years.

This year we will be in Orinda, California, my wife and my older daughter and her husband, and my nephew and his beloved. My younger daughter will be back for a Saturday Thanksgiving at her sister’s.

I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I am enjoying retirement, I have my health, such as it is, and I have my family. I can't imagine why I would bother getting out of bed each morning if not for my wife and my two girls.

My most important role is as husband to Vicki and father to my daughters.

The years I spent full-time with my girls are priceless. The time I spend with them now is priceless as well.

Not everyone can work in a home office, as I did for two decades.

But no matter where you work, the next time you have to make the tough call between the meeting and the soccer game, go to the soccer game. You'll never regret it. I am thankful for my family. Be thankful for yours.

Also give thanks for your friends and your good fortune. Spread that good fortune around in any way you can. I have much to be thankful for this holiday season, as I have had every year of my life. Another friend slipped out of this world during 2016, and I will miss him as I will miss my other departed friends.

I am thankful that I have a loving brother. I am thankful for my loving and understanding wife, and for the two most wonderful daughters I could have imagined, both of them turning into vibrant, intelligent young women before my very eyes.

I am thankful for every sunrise and sunset I get to see, every moment I get to be in, every flower I try so desperately to stop and smell. I am thankful that I can move closer every day to living a life in balance. Every morning, I am grateful to be alive. Not a bad way to start the day. For reasons I don't want to detail, I am extremely grateful just to be alive.

I am thankful for 250 pounds; down 50 from my peak. I am thankful for the fact that I will still be near that weight next year at Thanksgiving.

Every week at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Orinda, the former vicar concluded the service with this homily. The provenance seems uncertain; the Internet lists several attributions. All I know is, it touches me every time I hear it and is sound advice for life: The new vicar has discarded it, but I haven’t.

"Remember that life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be quick to be kind, make haste to love, and may the blessing of God be with you now and always."

It has been with me. I hope it is with you. In the meantime, I am thankful, finally, for each and every one of you reading this column. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

This and That

I have collected a lot of string since last I posted. In July, when the shape of the future was dimmer, I received this email from my friend John Ruley. I guess I am violating Godwin’s law, but it does provide some historical perspective:

On your Brexit Correction - according to William Shirer, in Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Chapters 6 and 7), Hitler was first appointed as chancellor after the Nazis failed to win a clear majority in the 1932 elections - but after he became chancellor, in what Shirer calls "the last relatively free election Germany was to have" - received 44% of the total vote, which while not a majority far outpaced that of competing parties. Hitler formed a coalition with the nationalist party, and that gave him the majority he needed to pass the "enabling laws" that gave him absolute power, among other things outlawing all other political parties, including his erstwhile nationalist allies. So, while Hitler was not personally brought to power in a free election, he in fact gained power legally - as he often said - as a result of free elections. Strange, but true!

 Long-time reader Stephen Coquet (one of the few who came to this column organically, rather than through pre-existing friendship with me) suggested this article about Hillary’s email server, back when it still might have done some good if placed before a wider readership. I feel like I let our side down. He also sent me this article from the Guardian about Baltimore police surveillance, and added,

The key statement is, “Police spokesperson TJ Smith insisted that the privately funded agreement between Persistent Surveillance Systems and city police 'was not a secret surveillance program.' " They just thought better if they didn’t tell anyone.

Dan Grobstein mentioned something I had vaguely heard about: A hip, cuddly and cunningly sadistic musical adaptation of the 1993 Bill Murray movie has opened in London. It is scheduled for the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway starting on April 17, 2017 Dan also passed along Ang Lee Is Embracing a Faster Film Format. Can Theaters Keep Up? There are exactly two U.S. theaters showing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk at 120 fps; one is the Cinerama Dome in LA, where I plan to see it soon. The other is in New York City. Dan also tipped me to the race to preserve old celluloid

 Kevin Sullivan has a book tip:

Looking at your book list, I was reminded by your love of film that I recently enjoyed reading - a) "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman, and then for fun, the actual book by him of "The Princess Bride". Both were informative and enjoyable.

This from my friend and former colleague Jerry Pournelle (the article is behind the paywall)

"I have ordered the book, but the review is itself informative and interesting."

We’re All Cord Cutters Now
At one chain, the top 100 movie titles accounted for 85% of the DVDs rented in-store. But online, the top titles make up only 35% of rentals.
By Frank Rose
Sept. 6, 2016 7:18 p.m. ET

Does the internet pose a threat to established entertainment companies? Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang lead a class at Carnegie Mellon University in which a student recently put that question to a visiting executive. He pooh-poohed the idea: “The original players in this industry have been around for the last 100 years, and there’s a reason for that.” As co-heads of CMU’s Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics, Messrs. Smith and Telang aim to counter this line of thought, and in “Streaming, Sharing, Stealing” they do just that, explaining gently yet firmly exactly how the internet threatens established ways and what can and cannot be done about it. Their book should be required for anyone who wishes to believe that nothing much has changed.

That such thinking still exists, at a time when Apple and Alphabet (that is, Google) are by far the world’s most valuable corporations, is testament to the power of self-delusion. Whether in music or movies or television or books, digital technology has given artists the tools to strike out on their own, enabled audiences to avoid paying for anything they don’t want to pay for and denied media companies the ability to control audience behavior. No longer can executives in New York or Los Angeles force music fans to buy an entire album instead of a single song; or movie buffs to line up at the box office for something they’d rather watch at home free; or television audiences to rush home and endure a barrage of ads in order to see their favorite shows.

From The Desk of Daniel Dern

Dern  spotted the British Version of the musical version of Groundhog Day. It is nice that some people have noticed my GHD obessesion). He sent along two other Bill Murray observations:

1) Bill in a Brooklyn bar

2) If you didn't see the recent THE JUNGLE BOOK, you should -- for you, because, if nothing else, Bill Murray voices Baloo (the bear), and yes, he and Mowgli do indeed sing "The Bear Necessities." Here they are doing it live on Jimmy Kimmel:.

Also from Dern: Watch the New York Public Library's Beautiful Reading Room Get Reshelved with Books and (SNL) movie trailer for Disney Bambi live-action sequel

Too late for theaters, but just in time for on-demand and DVDs from the Library, are some brief reviews from Daniel Dern (who also discovered Windows 9). Yes, I know I used to review these things myself, but I also used to eat a pound bag of M&Ms and drink a large bottle of Tab at one sitting—there are lots of things I used to do that I don’t do anymore.

Star Trek Beyond -  I'm sure there are no shortage of plot holes, cavils, and legit criticisms, but I thought this movie was Just Fine. Gave us lots of what we want -- lingering looks at the Enterprise, space fights, (a reasonable amount of) snappy dialog. Recommended. Note, no 'post-credit end of movie 'Easter Egg.''

Deadpool - I'm sure you saw this in the theatre. (I didn't.) The BluRay version includes lots of bits that were left out because of too much cussin', violence, sex, etc., dramatically upping the humor level. If you haven't seen the BluRay, consider doing so.

The Jungle Book - I never read Kipling's stories this is based on, nor saw the Disney animated 'toon. This take was live/CGI, and quite well done.

The Legend of Tarzan - I see that the reviews were mixed, to say the least. I enjoyed it. Jane was played by Margot Robbie, who (of course, although I didn't remember until seeing the info online) played Dr. Harley Quinn in the recent Suicide Squad movie.

Brooklyn - A good historical (pre-WWII USA) movie with no villains, no chase scenes, no explosions.

Through the Looking Glass - Having just watched it courtesy of our library, I enjoyed it, and recommend it. In some ways it's better than Burton's previous Alice movie, although I can easily list what feels like some weak points in TtLGlass. Much of what I could say, I won't, because it would be spoilers. Here's what I will say: It's not a movie of Carroll's book. It does take place in that "universe," focusing on Alice, with many familiar characters. It's an action movie. It opens with explosions, and builds. It looks fabulous. The library disk had a good short feature on aspects of the costuming which give a better look at some of the details. And Sasha Baron Cohen has a great role and does it well. That's all I'm going to say, that should be enough.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - Official Trailer #1 (2017) 

A few political words

Faithless electors on Dec. 19 seem like a good idea, but aren't really likely, despite Hillary's popular vote lead.

Exit polls aren't perfect, but they sure raise some questions in an election where the electoral college victory was won with the votes of fewer people that you can find watching Ohio State play football on a Saturday.

A friend noted the work of Bob Fitrakis, Ph.D., J.D., who was an international election observer for the 1994 presidential election in El Salvador and co-wrote and edited the international observer's report for the United Nations. He was also a lead attorney in the Moss v. Bush election challenge in 2004 and is currrently suing the Edison Research Group regarding their practice of adjusting exit poll data in favor of improbable results. 

Charts courtesy of Greg Kilcup.