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Friday, July 9, 1999

A Year of Thanksgiving Fribble

by Selena Maranjian (TMFSelena@aol.com)

This Fribble originally appeared as a Rule Breaker portfolio report in November of 1998. But it's always a good time to give thanks, right?

Gratitude... is a sickness suffered by dogs."
-- Josef Stalin

"Gratitude -- the meanest and most sniveling attribute in the world."

-- Dorothy Parker

It's Thanksgiving again, folks. Time to think about all that we take for granted through much of the year.

I've been accused by some readers of being a Pollyanna-ish "flower child," so I started this column by presenting some points of view opposite to mine. With that out of the way, let's move on to some thanksgiving.

The gratitude groupies among you might recall that I've had the pleasure of penning some previous Thanksgiving reports. In 1996, I presented a Foolish Alphabet of Thanks. Last year, I unveiled the new-and-improved Version 2.0 of the Foolish Alphabet of Thanks. This year I thought I'd try something different. It occurred to me that it's often the case that once a year we think to ourselves that we should pause and give thanks more than once a year. So in the spirit of trying to help gratefulness break out of its 24-hour shackles, I present:


The Foolish Calendar of Thanks

December
(featuring the International Tamale Festival)

Let us be thankful for the holiday season. I've often marveled that there really does seem to be something different in the air at this time, besides crass commercialism and materialism. Perhaps we're getting a glimpse of how we might live all year long. Imagine what life would be like if we spent more than just a few weeks:

  • Festooning our homes and neighborhoods with colorful lights
  • Hosting and attending lots of parties
  • Baking and giving away cookies
  • Shopping for and playing with toys
  • Reminiscing over more innocent childhood days
  • Exchanging cards and letters with old friends
  • Giving and receiving gifts
  • Singing along to old, familiar songs

January
(National Pie Day)

January is a tough month. The holidays have passed and we're left with piles of wrapping paper scraps to discard, pine needles falling all over the floor, and sweaters to exchange at the mall. Worse still, it's usually darn cold and another cold month or two lies in wait. So I'm thankful for the fact that January is when Girl Scout cookies begin to go on sale. Dreary January is perked up by the prospect of Thin Mints, Iced Ginger Daisies, and Samoas. Thanks, Girl Scouts!

February
(Potato Lovers' Month)

Every few years we can be thankful for the Olympics. I'm the first to admit that there's much to not be thankful for regarding the Olympics: insipid commentators, endless up-close-and-personal segments, coverage restricted to the top five Americans in the top ten events, vision-impaired skating judges...

But on a more positive note, it's hard not to be moved by the sight of people from so many different countries coming together and not shooting each other. The spirit of peaceful competition, with Jamaican and Armenian bobsledders competing with Germans, Russians, and Norwegians, is inspiring. I'm thankful for the many chances Olympics offer us to see underdogs like the 1998 Czech hockey team pull off big surprises, surprising themselves as well as us.

March
(National Sauce Month)

Every year, March offers college basketball's March Madness. This brings a little excitement to offices, where co-workers vie to guess the most game outcomes correctly (with the knowledgeable often upset by those merely guessing). We could be thankful just for that, but there's also the Sturm und Drang of the tournament itself... visions of young teammates on benches holding hands during final nail-biting seconds, of players and supporters moved to tears, experiencing perhaps the emotional zenith or nadir of their young lives.

I'm thankful for the lessons of March Madness, such as that when a group of people work together toward a common goal, even unlikely goals can be realized. Recall the last tournament, where 8th-seed University of Rhode Island beat first-seed Kansas in the first round.

April
(International Fruit Juice Week)

If you think about taxes only once a year, it's probably going to be in April. You should do yourself a favor, though, and attend to tax issues throughout the year. (Why fork over more than necessary to Uncle Sam -- so he can buy more $500 hammers?) Let us help you stress out less about it, with our new Motley Fool Investment Tax Guide.

On the first day of April, more than on any other day of the year, I give thanks for Foolishness. There's much to be thankful for here, such as our Investment Clubs area, our Ask the Headhunter area for job-hunters, and our collections of information on how to buy a car, buy a house, plan for retirement, understand insurance, pay for college, or dig out of debt. ("Favorite Place" these pages!)

If you want to be thanked profusely next year or in a few years, you might think about whether you should point out any of these areas to any of your loved ones. You probably know a few people who need some of this vital info, right? Give them a nudge in our direction.

(Thank goodness these annoying promotional blurbs have finally ended!)

(And could we have a few more parentheses, please?)

May
(International Pickle Week)

In May I give thanks for TV sweeps. It's during this month (and only a few others) that networks finally ease up on the reruns and offer a plenitude of new episodes of our favorite programs. This is cause for celebration among us couch potatoes.

The Fool-founding brothers Gardner don't yet star in a popular TV sitcom, but they come close to it with their new radio show (Fools on the Air!). We've got a syndicated weekly newspaper feature, too. Check these out, and if they're not running in your neighborhood, just give your local radio stations and business editors a jingle and let them know that you'd like them to carry some Foolishness.

(Ed. note: We've signed Selena up for some "Learn to Be Less of a Company Shill" sessions. We hope that you'll notice a difference within a few weeks.)

June
(National Dairy Month)

I could give thanks for weddings in June, but I'll devote my attention instead to asparagus. For June is the month of the National Asparagus Festival, celebrated annually in Michigan for some 25 years. Asparagus offers gobs of Vitamins A and C for only 20 calories per serving -- and you can make paper out of it, too!

July
(California Salmon Month)

The Fourth of July is about independence. And hey -- so is the Fool. The Motley Fool aims to help people everywhere become financially independent. Recall that historic Boston Fee Party -- where colonists tossed all their full-service brokerage statements into the harbor, refusing to pay unnecessarily steep fees for unnecessary services.

In July, I'm thankful that America is a land where we can enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press -- and freedom of investing, as well. We're free to be manic, hypertensive day-traders or confident, fun-loving, buy-and-hold Fools. Free to inefficiently invest in underperforming mutual funds or to trounce the market averages, investing in world-dominating wonderful businesses. Let's ring a bell of gratitude for freedom this month.

August
(Orange County N.Y. Onion Harvest Festival)

In August, let's pause to be thankful for those born in August. Like Richard Belzer of the terrific police show, "Homicide." And the lovable Julia Child, who has taught our nation to take food seriously. (Check out this fascinating biography of her.) And Garrison Keillor, creator of public radio's "Prairie Home Companion."

You know, the Fool's birthday falls in August, too. Some three months ago we turned four, as did this noble Fool Portfolio. Speaking of the FoolPort, it has had a tremendous year and history, up 117% this year and 630% since 1994. The S&P 500 has been a turkey in comparison, gaining 22% and 158% over these periods, respectively.

Can the portfolio's strong performance continue? Today the FoolPort has a very significant sell announcement that impacts five holdings. Be certain to check out the FoolPort (Rule Breaker Port) sell announcement.

September
(National Mushroom Month)

In September, let's pause to marvel at the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, which peaks in September (and March). It's breath-taking -- even in photos. Like many things (such as penguins and senses of humor), it makes me doubt much less that there is a God. (Some more cool shots and info: Aurora Borealis gallery, The Aurora Page )

October
(National Pork Month)

In October I'm thankful for more evidence of nature's bounty: fall foliage. I know I'm not the only one, as I've been caught in traffic jams in the middle of nowhere, with others who thought that nowhere would be a good place to spy bright red maple trees.

November
(National Fig Week)

If you're still reading, you can be thankful that we're almost done. For we've reached the last month -- November. A month when we can give thanks for elections and all the wackiness that accompanies them. Think of the Ross Perots and Jesse "the Mind" Venturas out there and you can't help but smile.

On this Thanksgiving, give thanks for who you are -- a Fool. And where you are -- most likely sitting at a computer in a home with a roof over your head or at your job that enables you to pay the rent and spend your spare time skeet-shooting.

Think of all those who aren't blessed with your good fortune. Even if you've had a run of sad news, bad times, maddening developments and cads around you... there are still many who are faring even worse. Much, much worse. So utter a word of gratitude and consider helping out those less blessed -- perhaps via our second annual SOS Campaign. (If you'd rather help those more fortunate than you, send a few dollars to your favorite NBA player -- most of them are surviving on only $20,000 per month during the lockout.)

I'll close now with a few words from some American luminaries:

"Thank God we're living in a country where the sky's the limit, the stores are open late and you can shop in bed thanks to television."
-- Joan Rivers

"Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed."

-- Mark Twain

[This has been another installment of Selena's Fribbles. If you're a glutton for the absurd, check out her archive.]


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