24 November 2016

Much to be Thankful for in 2016 Despite all Outward Appearances

Being thankful in 2016 is a bit of challenge. Take for example the small matter of the election campaign which was especially rife with prevarications, slander, aspersions and cockamamy theories. Worst of all it culminated in the election of a narcissistic, racist, misogynistic nincompoop who ranks as the least qualified person ever selected to the highest office in the land. And brother, that’s saying something. There have also been an inordinate number of deaths among the ranks of our greatest contributors to culture. Muhammad Ali’s death alone makes it a bad year. So too David Bowie’s. Add to those Gary Shandling, Gene Wilder, Paul Kantner, Bob Elliott, Prince, Gordie Howe, Elie Wiesel, Michael Cimino, Edward Albee, Gwen Ifiill and Glen Frey (The Eagles). Meanwhile Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney and Gordon Liddy are still alive. That is — as we used to say — totally bogus.

The world has also continued to suffer terrorists attacks, mass shootings and drone strikes that kill the innocent. Oh yeah, global warming caused yet another record year for heat and the polar ice caps melt. Europe has seen a rise in nationalistic racist groups and the USA has joined the fun. Bigots are coming out of the closet and since Trump was elected hate crimes are on the rise. One would think it could only get better but we have seen clear evidence that such might not be the case.

Still life offers us many joys and fulfillments. Some of us enjoy good health, friendships, a loving family, a rewarding career and sports, literature, film and other arts. Great comedians still practice their art (Trump has given them ever so much material to work with) so that laughs can mingle with the tears.

So am I thankful this year? I have an EU passport, so yes. Actually even without the option of skipping out on this country there is much for me celebrate. The aforementioned family, health, friends, career aside, I’d like to recognize some of them. All from the world of entertainment.

My Gratitude List:

John Oliver and This Week Tonight, my favorite show on television. Intelligent, revealing, thoughtful and often hilarious.

The Criterion Collection. I own and enjoy over 60 great films on DVD that they have released, always great prints with handsome artwork and insightful special features.

Twitter which serves as a collection of thoughts, commentary, humor and links. Since the election it has provided a place for many of us to comfort one another, inspire hope and encourage change.

Instagram. A constant reprieve from the sad state of the world filled with beautiful, funny and interesting photos. I’m happy to make my modest contributions as well.

The Simpsons. Simply put they are a constant. Thanks to FXX one can DVR dozens of episodes to be enjoyed at leisure.

Comedians. Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, Kate McKinnon, The Lonely Island boys, Roy Wood Jr., Samantha Bee, Billy Eichner (fast becoming a national treasure), George Wallace (providing yuks aplenty on Twitter), Bill Maher (when not slipping into Islamophobia), Patton Oswalt, Richard Lewis, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Mike Birbiglia, Russell Brand, Albert Brooks, Lewis Black, Jerry Seinfeld, Dana Carvey, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais, Kevin Hart, Bob Newhart and once again John Oliver.

The English Premier League. For me this principally means my favorite side, The Arsenal. But I enjoy watching other matches as well. Thank god the season runs far too long. More to enjoy.

The San Francisco Giants. The gold standard of baseball franchises rich with history and recent success and for years the destination of many great players from Willie Mays to Willie McCovey to Will Clark to Madison Bumgarner to Buster Posey.

Cal athletics. Win or lose the University of California Golden Bears field teams comprised of intelligent, honorable and hard working student athletes. At Cal the student part definitely comes first.

Bookstores, movie theaters and record stores. I’m very happy to spend so much time and money patronizing your businesses.

I am grateful to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, John Dos Passos, Anne Sexton, Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Ken Kesey, William Blake and Charles Dickens to name but a few writers who no longer roam this earth.

I am grateful to Ingmar Bergman, Cary Grant, Federico Fellini, Monica Vitti, Groucho Marx, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, William Holden, Roberto Rossellini, Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Gabin, Preston Sturges, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin to name but a from film who are likewise no longer of this world.

Among the living thanks to Woody Allen, the Coen brothers, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorcese, Al Pacino, Aki Kaurismaki, Zoe Kravitz, Faye Dunaway, Jim Jarmusch, Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Day-Lewis, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence, Denzel Washington. Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Robert DeNiro, Darren Aronofsky, Amy Adams, Roman Polanski, Penelope Cruz and Quentin Tarantino.

Others living and dead from various fields: Rick Perlstein, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Shaun King, Frank Rich, Olivia Nuzzi, Sopan Deb, Charles Blow, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Barbara Lee, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Gavin Newsom, Al Franken.

Also Hunter Pence, Alexis Sanchez, Mezut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Neil Patrick Harris, Dan Savage, Edward Snowden, Alec Baldwin, Rosario Dawson, Chelsea Manning, Kate Comer, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Daniel Ellsburg, Lee Dixon, Naomi Klein, Stephen Fry, Reza Aslan, Matt Taibbi, Ian McKellan, Stephen Merchant, Marvin Gaye, John Lewis, Jeremy Scahill, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Tracy Morgan, Gerard Mulligan, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, David Letterman, Dick Cavett, Cornell West, Bill Moyers, Steve Martin and Rihanna.

Lest I forget, thanks to everyone involved in Better Call Saul, Orange is the New Black, Fargo, Westworld, Brooklyn 99, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the good folks at Turner Classic Movies.

I also want to thank, sunsets, sunrises, clouds, rain, sun, breezes, flowers, trees, grass, all bodies of water be they rivers, lakes, oceans, seas, bays, lagoons inlets, ponds, creeks or streams. Public transportation, my gym, grocery stores, Twinings Breakfast Tea, licorice, salmon, restaurants, cafes, bicyclists who don’t ride on sidewalks and obey traffic rules, sports fans who cheers without being obnoxious or cussing, theater goers who don’t talk during the presentation or loudly open large bags of food, museums, parks, forests, mountains, hills, canyons, buttes, street musicians who are actually good and should have a record contract, people who donate to charity, people who support a free press, people who smile at strangers, dogs, cats, bears, moose, dolphins and all other animals who help support our eco-system. Thanks too to my cell phone, head phones, lab top, iPod and hi def TV. Thanks electricity and wifi. Thank you doctors and nurses. Thank you fellow teachers and thank you to the medication that keep me sane…well, less crazy.

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