Who am I to fight tradition?
At the end of a revolutionary year (literally), we’ve had the longest continuous onslaught of crises and bad news since 1968.
And, as 1968 ended, there were two grace notes: The crew of the USS Pueblo (taken in early 1968) were released from North Korea. And, of course the Christmas Eve look at the Earth from the Moon, as the astronauts of Apollo 8 read from Genesis. (Madeline Murray O’Hare would file suit, and end that. But it was perfect, that once.)
This year, Kim Jong Il, also of North Korea died and was buried, so that was parallel. But we don’t launch our own astronauts anymore, so no lunar dramatic interpretations. On the other hand, no American politicians were assassinated this year, although the Tucson nut case came close with Gabby Giffords.
So, that’s good.
There were lots of stories, including the January 1 bird kill in Arkansas, which fell off the radar (no pun intended) fairly early.
Five heads of state (at least) fell from power. Long entrenched power structures collapsed. The Republican party fielded the weakest presidential candidate field since a Democratic hioliday skit. The Democrats, as ever, were dissatisfied with all their office holders, as the Republicans, as ever, were enthralled with their office holders, even as they openly drowned puppies and kittens for fun.
Ghod continued to love assholes, making so many of them, and a new generation of them took their place in the halls of power in Washington, D.C.
Climate change continued to ream the Land, and our Official Policy continued to be that there’s nothing we can do about it, because 1) it’s “controversial” and 2) saving the Human Species from Extinction might cost jobs. In a Recession? Can’t do that. Money is more important than survival, or, at least that seems to be the New American Dream.
Those with money made a LOT more of it, and those without made less than they had before.
Faux Nooz tried out their Fact Free Zone all year long, and the frustrated Junior High School students who dominate and monopolize talk radio were more than happy to aid and abet.
The “tea party” Freshman class of Congress brought us to the edge of government shutdown twice, gained nothing and managed to cost the USA its credit rating. Congress did nothing and allowed a GOP Lame Duck law passed by the defeated Republican Majority in 2006 to force the near bankruptcy of the Postal Service. But the thousands of post offices and hundreds of mail processing centers that don’t have to close won’t close until 2012, so we can save that for NEXT year’s roundup.
The first author to sell one million ebooks emerged in 2012, which is, in its way, the most profound change in reading since Plato complained how those new-fangled books were destroying the art of conversation. This year was the Year of the Kindle.
Kindle Fire or its equivalent
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I had some personal milestones, as well — since the aforementioned crap is ubiquitous with any lazy year-end roundup, which is WHY they actually exist: to let hung over and stultified-by-turkey newsrooms and “journalists” regurgitate old news, rather than roll off the couch to find any new news. That can wait until after New Years.
2011 was the 50th anniversary of my first piano lessons (a practice I ceased in 5th grade except for a semester in college).
2011 was the 15th anniversary of winning a Gold Medal at the World Internet Exposition, which came with CorelDraw 6, and materially changed my life, as I began to do a lot of commercial art with it — mostly for political and business entitities. And I got to pay income tax on the retail value (about $1000) of a bunch of “prize” software that all turned out to be obsolete versions of stuff that was being replaced by newer versions. (Corel had just released CorelDraw 7, f’r instance.)
Such is fortune.
2011 was the 35th anniversary of my professional writing career, as I dropped out of TCU and moved with a wife and two cats (one pregnant) to Hollywood, California, to the horror and universal disclaim of friends and relatives. I would like to note, at this date, that they ALL turned out to be full of it. I have worked at this accursed trade ever since. In late 1976, Richard Delap, of Delap’s F&SG Review, funded by Fred Patton of LASFS fame, handed me my first professional (e.g. compensated) assignment, a review of Will Bradbury’s The God Cell, which sucked.
Delap is dead, now, but his library was willed to the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, and it’s just kind of weird to see in their catalog. In fact, I met Theodore Sturgeon that summer, on July 3, 1976, a meeting that would profoundly alter my life, and this year Ted’s papers (he died in 1985) were finally donated to the Spencer, per his willed request/bequest. Tempus fugit.
Then again, I remember once going to a movie about my ex-employer — which both Sturgeon and I shared at that time; I was his editor — which was equally surreal. Strange, small world. So many that I knew starting out are dead, now. (And so many that the world would be be a happier place without are still alive and snarking.)
And, finally, 2011 was the 40th anniversary of my picking up the guitar for the first time.
SCR mural in Nebraska Statehouse
My cousin, Steven Cornelius Roberts (who later made his mark in the world of art, and painted several murals in the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska) showed me how to play the basic chords on a steel-string guitar, and introduced me to the constant wonder of left-hand finger calluses. And, as with baseball, it was too expensive to find a left-handed guitar, so I learned right-handed. That summer, in Omaha, Nebraska also was my first and last guitar lesson.
Thanks, Steve — belatedly, if I didn’t say so at the time.
The Redhead and my Yamaha FG 110. The latter lasted longer. Circa 1980
I finally got a decent guitar in 1975, for $40. It was a Yamaha FG 110, and it cost $15 for the pawn ticket and $25 to get it out of hock. Someone had drawn a star in the soft wood of the soundboard with a ballpoint pen, but it was pristine, otherwise, and I had it for the next 25 years (until it was stolen).
I realize that this has nothing much to do with 2011, except that I bought the equivalent of the FG110 on sale at Guitar Center this year, and, after five years of diabetic neuropathy that has made it impossible for me to hold a pick, I am, once again, able to play.* And that’s an unexpected wonderful thing.
[Alpha lipoic acid, 300 mg. once a day to repair nerve damage. I can testify that it works. My guitar no longer gently weeps, but is again, a faithful friend and boon companion.]
I don’t have any Jimmy Page, Andres Segovia or Leo Kottke chops to show off here, but I will end this with my “ending” piece, which I’ve pretty much ended all my performances since, say, 1990 with.
Happy New Year, Gary
This if off the live board at my weekly “Acoustic Air Force” open mic, and has only been tweaked ever so slightly. The guitar/vocal mix is what it was, and the ambient audience sounds are whatever the live mic picked up. I learned this song from my friend G.T. Morse, in Babes in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it was several years before I heard the original, by Lyle Lovett. And I learned an important thing then: this doesn’t sound a THING like Lovett’s version. “If I Had A Boat” – Rascals Tavern, 1997.
Or just listen/download: MP3, 2.7 megabytes.
Thank you, good night, and don’t forget to tip your bartenders and wait staff. My name is Hart Williams and I’ll be here all week.
And if you think you might could maybe need a designated driver to get home, then you DEFINITELY need a designated driver.
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.