Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon character doesn’t subscribe to the magical thinking that one random point in the space-time continuum is somehow special (See Dilbert 12/31/2011 in numerous newspapers and periodicals). Another character, offering a hug, tells him he’ll enjoy it. Perhaps.
New Years Eve bacchanals have long since had little attraction for me. For the past three or four decades my celebrations have consisted of little more than a home movie, dinner, and early to bed. It is amateur night for those who imbibe alcoholic beverages, and insist on operating two-and-a-half ton machines on the public highways and byways. But enough for curmudgeonly carping.
A new year on the calendar is a useful point for marking the beginning and end of a period. Like Dilbert says, it is random, and arbitrary. Events and eras do not usually fit nicely into defined time spans. While we speak of decades to describe cultural and social, and some times political, trends, there is always overlap of the numerically described periods. Still, we measure time and appoint certain periods and points as significant. For most of us the calendar marks the end of an accounting year for taxes, among other things. Age is significant for an number of things from being eligible to vote to becoming eligible to receive social security payments, and it is marked by birthdays. Legal remedies are foreclosed by statutes of limitations; a claim that could be worth millions of dollars becomes worth nothing at the stroke of midnight on the day limitations runs. So dates are significant. As a history pedagogue, I tell students that I do not usually expect them to memorize a bunch of dates, but they should have vague idea of what happened on 7/4/1776 and 9/11/2001, and that World War I came before World War II. It’s also a good idea to know when they were born. Fortunately, most know that, if for no other reason than they can’t wait to legally buy whiskey or similar liquids.(though those who wish to have no trouble illegally acquiring substances with similar effects.)
The New Year custom or tradition of making resolutions for self-improvement, while probably more honored in breach than in the observance, is useful for those with the self discipline to follow through. In my household, we signed up for a year membership in the Tom Landry Fitness Center (named for the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach of their first three decades) in our ongoing attempts to mitigate the effects of Father Time. Because we are both notoriously thrifty – in my case some would say miserly – we might follow through and take full advantage. This blog was conceived at the New Year in 2007, and lasted about a month. Why? I have no answer other than I just didn’t do it. However, a couple of years ago, I began writing from time to time and sending my observations and comments about current events and other items to a select group of friends and acquaintances in e-mail form. Some I submitted to the Dallas Blog of my long time friend Tom Pauken, which he usually published on line. In June of last year, I began posting my missives to this blog, and notifying my e-mail list, which has grown to over 50, when I post. I hope to continue this practice, and, of course welcome comments, both public and private.
Another tradition is necrology for the year just past. This practice marks the passing of persons who have been noteworthy for accomplishment or celebrity, which are sometimes but certainly not always the same thing. At or about when they occurred, I gave my take on the deaths of Steve Jobs, Christopher Hitchens, and Peggy Railey (there is quite an extensive article in today’s Dallas Morning News for those interested in the Railey imbroglio). There is no necessity to mention the many others in this space, as other publications have done an adequate job.
As far as the traditional prognostications go, here is my take.
While recognizing that anything can happen, there is certain to be conflict of all kinds throughout the globe, mostly in southwest Asia, and sub-Saharan as well as north Africa. I believe the “Arab Spring” has sprung, but we’ll see.
I will not be surprised if the Euro goes away. The British, Scandinavians, Swiss, and Czechs wisely stayed out of the Euro Zone. Germany, France, and the Benelux countries should get tired of propping up their neighbors to the south who cannot manage to manage their economic affairs.
The futile international “war on drugs” will continue with results no different than those of the past 40 years.
Again, anything can happen. But I believe Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee for President and the election will be close. The campaigns will be personal and nasty. The House will barely stay Republican and the Senate will be evenly divided, or closely so.
Unemployment rates will stay pretty much the same. The stock market will fluctuate.
State and Local:
Rick Perry will resume being governor full time. (Actually, it’s a part time job for most purposes, except getting paid.) He has been what I call the Hippocratic Governor, that is, he has done no harm. His foray into Presidential politics seemed to be a Peter Principle exercise, though.
Our drought will continue, those maybe less severe. The terrible drought of the 1950s lasted seven years; less severe ones have come in similar cycles. Hope I’m wrong that it continues at all. I am informed that the seven year cycles predicted around 3000 years ago by Joseph in Genesis, which curried favor with the Pharaoh, occurred in the same latitudes (Cairo and Austin are both close to 30 degrees North). Regardless of what authority one considers the Bible for, it is a historical document and many of the events that occurred have been independently verified, and those dependent on an agrarian economy for survival could observe weather and such.
The Texas Rangers will win the World Series. Out on a limb here, I know, but won’t be Armageddon if they don’t.
A custom or tradition Martha and I have observed for the past 15 or so years is to great the New Year dawn at White Rock Lake here in Dallas. Some have been cloudy and even rainy, but most have been bright and clear. Nearly all have been rather cold. Here is the first sunrise of 2012. May we have one as comely often this year and 366 days (it is a leap year) hence.
Here comes the sun