2018 — You’re Goin’ Be A Good Year!

2018

OMG! I’m old enough to remember when 2001 was science fiction, so 2018 is beginning to stretch the limits of my imagination.  When I was a kid, 2018, if it happened at all, was going to be a bleak combination of all the best bits of Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, Death Race 2000 and A Clockwork Orange.  In short, as a know-it-all 20-something, I didn’t think we were actually going to get this far.  However, here we are — and we survived 1984, Y2K and the Mayan Calendar.  Not bad considering that, at various times, half the population was convinced all three of them were going to wipe us out.

Here’s the deal: humans are a resilient species.  Unlike every other mammal on this planet, we have the ability to adapt to whatever difficulties Mother Nature and our own inherent stupidity throw in our path.  Plus, we have the audacity to challenge the awesome power of our unforgiving universe and the skill to bend it to our will.  Again, not bad considering half the population gets its information from Twitter — 140 characters at a time.

The trick is, human beings are the sum of their parts.  For every Kim Jong-un threatening to turn our children into nuclear French fries, there are ten Dutch engineers turning wind into electricity so those same kids won’t choke on industrial waste.  For every Boko Haram, there are ten Nigerian dads taking the early bus so their daughters can go to school.  And for every stupid Trump tweet, there are at least ten Americans, out there somewhere, saying WTF? — because in the entire history of human existence, for every dark slice of yesterday there’s always been a whole new tomorrow.

I lost my after-dinner pessimism somewhere between Maggie Thatcher and the Fall of the Berlin Wall.  And although, these days, it’s soul crushing to watch a snarling pack of self-important middleclass slacktivists systematically dismantling the Enlightenment, I refuse to surrender my optimism.  Saner heads will prevail!  They always have, and I believe they always will.  So, 2018, come ahead!  You’re gonna be a good year: I can feel it.

Hogmanay: Let’s Get Scottish

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Although, lately, it’s become a bit of a drunken bash, Hogmanay is actually a very ancient festival.

What? You’ve never heard of Hogmanay?

Sorry! I tend to forget that most people don’t have the advantage of being born Scottish.

For the uninformed, Hogmanay is basically New Year’s Eve, but, like haggis and hating the English, it has a distinctive Scottish flavour.  You see, for most of Scotland’s history, Christmas was no big deal.  Back in the day, the powers that be in Scotland’s Protestant Church weren’t all that keen on the heathen bits of Christmas (stuff like trees, presents, and mistletoe.) So, rather than muck about, they simply banned it, and for several hundred years, there was no Christmas north of Hadrian’s Wall.  In fact, Christmas, as the rest of the world knows it, only became a holiday in Scotland in 1958!  Instead, the Scots celebrated Hogmanay on December 31st.  The great irony is, of course, Hogmanay is about as pagan as you can get without a human sacrifice.  So much for the wisdom of the Church of Scotland!

As with most modern festivals, though, good luck trying to figure out where Hogmanay came from!  Its origins are a tangled mess of several cultural influences.  First, there is the Gaelic celebration of Yule and the even older winter festival, Samhain.  (Or maybe it’s the other way round?  I can never keep those two straight.)  Either way, these were high holidays on the Celtic calendar for a millennium before Christianity came to Caledonia.  Meanwhile, sometime in the 8th century, marauding Vikings started showing up, battle axe in hand, to add a little rape and pillage to the Scottish shore.  Some of these Norsemen liked the look of the place and took up residence and, no strangers to wild parties, added their traditions to the mix, including a Winter Solstice celebration.  So, by the time Robbie Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne” (the quintessential New Year’s song) in 1788, Hogmanay was already Scotland’s quintessential winter festival — and had been for 1,000 years.

In contemporary times, Hogmanay is still celebrated as an optimistic look into the future.  Most Scots clear out the clutter of the old year, including getting rid of unused items, old clothes and even breaking off bad relationships and settling debts.  The point is to welcome the new year with a clean slate.  The most vigorously observed custom, though, is “first-footing.”  This is the first person to come through your door in the new year.  Folklore dictates that it should be a tall, dark man.  (In Scotland, short blonde woman, stay home!  I’m not kidding!) And he should bring bread, salt or coal as a gift to the household.  This ensures prosperity and good fortune in the coming year.

Of course, if it’s Scottish, it includes alcohol. Toasting in the New Year is done so enthusiastically — from Gretna Green to the Isle of Skye — that  not only is January 1st a national holiday, but January 2nd, as well.  (Pragmatic people, the Scots!)

So (as the man said) we can raise a cup of kindness to last year, but let’s reserve the next two for the year to come.

Happy New Year, everybody! (wherever you are in the world)

Happy New Year 2017

new-year-2017

Goodbye, 2016 — you 12 month, piece of junk.  You were a year written by George R.R. Martin and I, for one, won’t be missin’ ya.  Unfortunately, among all the “Happy New Years,” there are a bunch of people predicting that it’s only going to get worse in 2017.  If climate change doesn’t kill us all, ISIS, immigrants or Donald Trump will.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  Personally, I’ve lived through more than one Earth- Ending Event — including Margaret Thatcher, George Bush (both of them) Y2K, the Mayan calendar and whatever Nostradamus has been babbling about for years.  Predicting the future is like raising children — you never know whether you’re right or wrong until it’s too late.  So rather than trying to look over the horizon at 2017, here are just a few things I would really like to see next year.

1 — We all finally realize that nothing actually happens when some asshole gets offended on Social Media — nothing!

2 — The Kardashians go back to whatever planet they came from — and they take Blac Chyna, Tyga and Kanye with them.

3 — We remember that Reality TV is, in reality, an oxymoron.

4 — Telling the truth is no longer one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

5 — Somebody, please, take the jihadists seriously.  These homicidal maniacs have a grudge against the 21st century and it’s not as if anybody can talk them out of it.  A lot of people are getting killed.  We need a better strategy than candles and teddy bears — after the fact.

6 — Game of Thrones quits going sideways.

7 — The end of the mannequin challenge.

8 — There’s at least one decent movie produced in 2017 that isn’t a sequel, a prequel, part of a franchise, a remake or a reboot.  There has to be an original idea out there — somewhere.

9 — We permanently abandon Uggs and yoga pants.

10 — Hey, Minions!  You’re 15 minutes is over.

And finally:

11 — Somebody looks at me the way women look at yogurt in the television commercials.