Happy New Year [Insert Year]

The Calendar Is Nothing But an Overlay

In general, I am not big on public holidays. And New Years Day is probably my least favorite. In the past, I have tended to answer the usual enthusiastic “Happy New Year” with the off-putting, “Only a fool celebrates the passing of time.” I am no longer invited to New Years parties, but then none of my friends hold them any more.

Here I am, three weeks away from visiting an ancient society which depended heavily on the calendar (the Maya), while I tend to pooh-pooh the whole idea. I do not read any retrospective articles on the year that was or watch any TV programs that fill the same function; and I most certainly do not stay up past midnight to usher the new year in. I rather think the new year can usher itself in: It knows where the door is. I will not drink any cocktails, and I will probably be abed by 10 pm.

I have no particular feelings about 2019. It had its good points, and it had its bad points. Trump is still in charge of the White House and he hasn’t yet canceled the Bill of Rights. (Maybe this coming year….)

Politics has no magic for me. On one hand, elections involve people who make promises, but really want to exercise power and/or accumulate wealth. And even if my candidate wins, I will likely be disenchanted after a few months—because I forgot this simple fact.

If all this sounds deeply cynical, remember that I am a cynical person. I have seen some three quarters of a century pass by my eyes. There has been love, there has been despair, there has been failure, there has been modest success, there has been hope, there have been disasters. I came close to cashing in my chips in 1966, but I am curiously in fairly good health at the present moment—even if I can’t count on it to last.

So I will still wish you all a Happy New Year, but know that years are all ineluctably mixed. I think Spock had the best greeting: Live long and prosper.

 

Boldog új évet!

And My Computer Is Now Working!

I will start 2019 with my old office computer, which has been newly updated with additional memory and a new graphics card. Apparently, the computer freezes I described were mostly the fault of the graphics card, which was installed late in 2015.

As long as the Trumposaurus is occupying the White House—or, even, earth, above ground, that is—2019 can’t really be a great year. But we can make the best of things. It’s how we tackle adversity that really counts. We cannot expect to live a live that is devoid of adversity. Real happiness is not the result of living in lucky times: It’s creating our own luck in dicey times.

So, to all my readers, I wish you all the best.

By the way, the title of my post is Happy New Year in Hungarian. All of you, be boldog.

 

“We Cling to Whatever Floats”

Actually It’s a Lot Sooner Than That

Let’s face it: 2017 was nobody’s favorite year, unless they’re billionaires or right-wing extremists. And it definitely wasn’t mine. In the month of December, not only did I break some ribs, but Friday I was admitted to UCLA Hospital for one of my rare recurrences of adrenal insufficiency.  If you want the full background of what happened to me in September 1966, click here. To summarize very briefly: Chromophobe adenoma (pituitary brain tumor, rarely malignant) leads to panhypopituitarism which results at intervals in an Addisonian Crisis, which is what I had on Friday. The cure, very simply, is to inject me with 100mg of Solu-Cortef. Otherwise, I just fade peacefully and lethargically into nonexistence.

Unfortunately my condition is rare enough to flummox most doctors. It took a whole day for them to come up with an endocrinologist. Fortunately, she knew her stuff; and I got well quickly. Most doctors know that my condition exists, but they know little or nothing about the symptoms and treatment.

So that, plus my retirement and Martine’s impending departure (some time in January), added to the continuing devastation wrought by the Trumpf Administration, has led me to regard 2017 as an evil year.

2017 was, indeed, a prime number, which school janitor Frazz in the above cartoon strip of the same name, got right. But his teacher friend, Miss Jane Plainwell, is wrong about the next prime year being 4034, which it can’t be because it is evenly divisible by two. The next ten prime number years are, in order: 2027, 2029, 2039, 2053, 2063, 2069, 2081, 2083, 2087, and 2089. As you can see, they come pretty fast and furious.

Are there any benefits to be derived from surviving through a year that is also a prime number? Nope. As Frazz observes, “We cling to whatever floats.”

I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

“Starting With Black”

... But Not Necessarily Ending With Black

… But Not Necessarily Ending With Black

The following is a poem by Jim Haba, which appeared in today’s Salon.Com. Let me start with the text of the poem:

Starting With Black

In a dark place
In a dark time

Start with black.
Stop. Soak up its energy.

Remember the circle
However bent and broken.

Prize balance. Seek pleasure.
Allow surprise. Let music

Guide your every impulse.
Support those who falter.

Steer by our fixed star:
No Justice. No Peace.

I like what the Haba said about his feelings writing this poem:

The profound and expansive confusion that consumes us today requires much more than a momentary stay (even though any respite can help) and I cannot overestimate the danger of immediately grasping for the solace of normalization or simple denial. When the gravity of our current confusion somehow reminded me of Matisse’s remark that ‘black is also a color’ I began to see the necessity of squarely facing the darkness of our predicament. It seemed that only when we stop and give ourselves over to fully taking in this darkness can we begin to gauge its scope and scale. And then, paradoxically, we may discover within that very blackness the energy that will sustain our resistance, our struggle for clarity. Deeply inhabiting a work of art (letting ‘music/guide our every impulse’) strikes me as an important way to tune ourselves and to provide a life-preserving rhythm for the long struggle that lies ahead.

So, Happy New Year to all of you. My fingers are crossed.

The Lion Dance

Lion Dancer at Chinese New Year Parade

Lion Dancer at Chinese New Year Parade

I have seen perhaps a dozen Chinese New Year parades, and I am quite used to seeing dragons and lion dancers. What I find interesting, however, is that there are no lions in China, nor have there been for about two thousand years. According to an article in China Highlights:

In traditional Chinese culture, the lion, like the Chinese dragon, was only an animal which existed in myth, and there were no actual lions in China. Before the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), only a few lions had reached the Central Plains from the western area of ancient China (now Xinjiang), due to Silk Road trade.

Stone lions can be seen, however, acting as guardians to Beijing’s Forbidden City (see below). And Chinese images and beliefs relating to the mythical strength of the lion have spread around the world with the Chinese diaspora.

Stone Lion at the Forbidden City in Beijing

Stone Lion at the Forbidden City in Beijing

There are two styles of lion dance, the Northern and the Southern. Although most Chinese-Americans originated in South China, all the lion dancers I have seen at New Years parades were of the Northern type, which is associated with Chinese martial arts organizations. In the Northern style, only one person manipulates the lion costume. According to the China Highlights website, “Northern lion dances are more gymnastic, involving rolling, wrestling, leaping, jumping, climbing, or kowtowing.” It’s quite entertaining to see the feats of gymnastics performed by Kung Fu practitioners.

 

The Best of 2015

I Never Would have Thought It Possible....

I Never Would have Thought It Possible….

A couple of weeks ago, while I was visiting my brother in Palm Desert, the best thing about 2015 hit me right between the eyes. It was a four-month old baby named Oliver Moorman. I normally don’t go goo-goo-eyed over infants, but I have to admit I did this time. Little Ollie’s mother, my niece Hilary, and her husband Joe Moorman have collaborated on a co-production that has radiated hope in the lives of our tight little family. As you may know, I am a terrible pessimist, but little Ollie has given me some glimmerings of hope for the future.

He makes me want to help make this a better world.