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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Thursday, December 15

Merry Christmas 2016

To my Russian readers who have been surprisingly many, Спасибо and Hristos Razdajetsja. To my many readers in French, Merci and Joyeux Nöel. To my many readers in Spanish, Gracias and Feliz Navidad. To my many readers in German, Danke and Fröliche Weihnachten. And to all others, in all other languages, Thank you and Merry Christmas.

This has been such a surprising year that I can hardly wait to see what 2017 will bring: the likelihood of life on other planets, a stock market that is surprisingly bullish, crazy technological advances, medical breakthroughs, and, of course, the election of Donald Trump. Bring it on, 2017. Surprise us even more.

Two bits of Christmas doggerel verse to help me get through the season. (The first one is new, the second and third from a few years ago.)

Christmas time again.
It seems like it was
Just awhile
Since we sent out our last year’s cards—
And here it is again—
Christmas time, and then,
A New Year coming,
Barack out and Donald in.
We won’t know until next year
How good or bad he’s gonna be,
But Santa knows,
And I suppose
A lump of coal is what the Don will see.
So Ho! Ho! Ho! to us and you,
And a merry (not a scary) New Year too.

"Jerry & Rosalie Over the Holidays"

Life is a bowl of cherries,
But sometimes it’s just the pits.
We’re a pair of sedentaries
Who move in starts and fits.
We’ve now got liver berries
Instead of pubescent zits.
We shop at cash and carries,
Never dining at the Ritz.
We listen to Frank’s and Perry’s
And ignore all the hard rock hits.
And Christmas at Rosalie’s and Jerry’s
Now involves two feeble wits,
Trying to say many Christmas Merries
Before we call it quits.
So here it is:
Merry Merry Merry Christmas!

I looked back over some of my Christmas essays from the last fourteen years and decided that some of what I said back then is worth repeating.

In 2002 I spoke about Time and Love. “We usually don’t realize just how good we’ve all got it. We sometimes complain about the weather (What? In Arizona?! Never!), about the state of affairs in our state (What? In Arizona?! Never!), about the state of the Union (What? In this good old U.S.A, with the leaders we have?! Never!), with the way our coffee tastes or the way some old guy tries to cut us off at the light or the number of times some telemarketer calls us during cocktail hour or the number of putts we miss or the number of putzes on the road with cell phones glued to their ears or the fact that time seems to be swooping in some kind of nose dive headed for eternity. Whoa! Let’s not go there. We think you get our drift, and we don’t mean a snowdrift. Count the days as precious. Give the gift of love to those you love, and give it to those you don’t love, just to see how uncomfortable it makes them feel. Maybe they’ll reciprocate. Wouldn’t it be nice if our adversaries in the Middle East felt that way? And it doesn’t even have to have anything to do with Christ and Christianity or Muhammad and Islam. Let it just be about the simple gift of love, a gift that doesn’t cost much and doesn’t need to be wrapped. And you can send it in a second or a minute or an hour if the receiver isn’t near. It’s a gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving.”

In 2004, I wrote about the current technological advances. “I remember what seems like only a few years ago when Alvin Toffler wrote his best-seller Future Shock, a book about how technology was moving so fast that most of us would go into shock over all these rapid developments. It was written in 1984. I’m sure that now, some twenty years later, Toffler must be spinning in his grave even more rapidly about the surge of futurism. Even he couldn’t foretell how fast technology was going to develop. Nanotechnology comes up with new toys almost daily—smaller and smaller, less and less expensive, more and more powerful radios, cameras, tv’s, computers, data storage units, artificial organs, etc. I even read recently they’re developing a magnetic microchip with so much storage capacity that one could have one implanted and record every scene, every word said throughout one’s entire life. Why would one want to do that? This one wouldn’t. Many events in our lives are worth remembering as they actually happened, too many aren’t. And don’t we appreciate the way we can “water color” our memories to make them more palatable? The future is as exciting as it is frightening. I fear that these technological advances are also creating bigger and more powerful weapons of mass destruction. I fear all the nincompoops into whose hands these weapons might land—and not just our enemies, also our “leaders.” May we all pray that the next years may bring us back to sanity, to make all this new technology good and not evil. Another year in front of us.”

In 2006 I wrote about what the future may hold for us. “We can’t seem to get over the biological hazards of hatred and bigotry and misguided religious zeal. Granted, we still have too many crimes of passion right here in our own backyard, but the same could be said of nearly every other spot on earth. The world is a dangerous place in which to live these days but we don’t really have any better place to go. We need to get through these next sixty to a hundred years without doing permanent damage to this place we love, this place where we live. We need to solve our environmental problems, our racial misunderstandings, our impoverished millions, our porous boundaries. Lots of problems, all of which can be solved it we really pay attention. First, we need to trust the scientific community and the technologists and the world economy. Technological advances will continue to get us closer and closer to that day when no one will need to be concerned about food and shelter. Population will stabilize. Crimes other than crimes of passion will be minimal because everyone’s physical needs will be met. Devastating illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease will be reduced or eliminated entirely. The various religions will have a meeting of the minds and world peace will reign. All this will be possible if we can stop ourselves from either killing us all outright or blighting or destroying our planet. Sixty to a hundred years. Let’s all do all we can to bring this new era about.”

In 2007 I again ranted against cell phones. “I’m still among the ever-decreasing number of holdouts in the cell phone revolution. I just can't think of that many reasons for owning and using a cell phone. Only two reasons come to mind. While traveling by car, one would be useful in case of an accident or a breakdown, but I say, don’t have any accidents and make sure your car is always ready and able to roll. Or if I’m out in the boonies and I have some life-and-death message I need to get to someone, it would be better than sending up flares or screaming at the top of my lungs. But when I search through my life experiences, I can think of only two or three times a cell phone would have been handy. And I’m still here. Those aren't reasons enough for buying one. I think there must be in this country at least 98% of all adults and young people (and my definition of young people is down to ten years old) who now own a cell phone. I see people talking on them everywhere, especially while operating a car. Or shopping for groceries. What could they possibly be talking about? The airwaves must be crammed with empty words, the cell users babbling to a captive audience. At airports, if one needs to use a cell phone, he should be required to go to a room to stand shoulder to shoulder with the smokers, lots of talking and talking and coughing and coughing. But even that isn't a potential solution since we have now sent all smokers, like pariahs, outdoors, at least twenty-five feet from the nearest entrance. Okay, then, still assign a separate room for cell phone users. And not just at airports, but also in restaurants, theaters, malls, or any public area where most of us don't want to listen to other people on their cells babbling about nothing on their cells, all doing it too loudly, as though the rest of us are really interested in their nonsensical non-thoughts. Soon, I'm sure, they'll have phones that fit directly into the ear, about the same size as hidden hearing aids. They’ll be entirely voice-activated. Just ask it to dial someone on your speed-dial list and bingo. Then we'll have a nearly entire population driving and walking around with lips moving rapidly, eyes glazed. That used to be a sure sign of madness. And, I guess, it still would be.

In 2009, naturally, I had to write about where we were during Barack Obama’s first year in office. And, next year, whether we like it or not, we’ll get to see where we’ll be during Donald Trump’s first year. “2009 is best characterized by the Obama Presidency. Love him or hate him, he’s the star our nation is hitched to. He stepped into the deepest mess any president has had to slog through since FDR and the Depression and WWII. He’s been in office less than a year and his popularity in the polls is going down, just like that runaway escalator. A year is too short to accurately judge a presidency. We need to give him more time either to solve our economic woes or to make them worse, to see some light at the end of war’s tunnel or to continue fighting futile battles, to unite us as a nation or to break us into 308,061,931 pieces (the latest U.S. population clock numbers). Wall Street seems to have recovered nicely, Main Street not so nicely. A health care plan may soon be in place, love it or hate it. New jobs will be created sooner or later. I read somewhere that in 2019, half the jobs then don’t even exist today. Some of that stimulus money needs to provide jobs building new bridges and highways. We need to get control of inflated hospital, doctor, medical insurance, and pharmaceutical costs. We need to have a more sensible and universal plan for dealing with illegals.”

In 2010 I had more to say about future technology. “According to an article I read in the AARPS magazine, we may soon have a pill that could restore our brains to their youthful vigor. With the aid of artificial limbs and organs, the next generation could live up to 200 years. Supercomputers might one day store our minds and memories, allowing us to live virtually forever. Automobiles may give way to super trains, or autos that drive and steer by computer with us just going along for the ride. These are exciting steps to contemplate. But first we have to come to a united world with united goals.”

In 2011, cell phones again. “In the near future the phones will turn themselves on when a call or text message comes in. In fact, in the near future, the phones will be turning their owners on, telling them what to say, what to do, where to go. The science fiction idea that someday machines might take over the earth, take over the human race, isn’t all that far afield. When I see hundreds of people, thousands, all hunched over, thumbs working like mad, completely tuned out of what’s going on around them, completely incognizant of the world and its natural beauty, I shudder to think that the
takeover is already upon us. But enough about cell phones and their addiction.”

In 2014, life in the United States and all we have to be thankful for. “Nationally, we should all be thankful for living in the United States, this wondrous nation, at a time when the quality of life for nearly all our citizens has never been higher. We should all thank our lucky stars that we averted that looming recession (maybe even depression) only a few years ago, that nearly all of us can again find gainful employment. We should be thankful that we’re free to worship any way we want to any kind of creator we envision, that we can say almost anything we want without fear of reprisal from a totalitarian government, that we can go almost anywhere we want now that gas prices are tumbling, that we can listen to anything we want no matter how rappishly bad or classically good, that we can almost endlessly speak to friends and relatives via our ubiquitous cell phones, that almost all of us can go to bed every night without feeling the pangs of an empty belly. And the people of the world should be thankful that in the United States they have a nation strong enough and willing enough to protect them from the bullies and thugs and fanatics who would like to kill anyone and everyone who doesn’t think or believe as they do. The world should not despise us for the bounty we have but should thank us for that protection we provide, for the money we give to help them economically, for the food we provide for those who are starving, for the medicine we provide for those who are dying.”

That should do it for my 2016 Christmas blog. I hope that, I wish that, life was as good for all others as it is for my wife and me. It should be, but it still isn't. Maybe in a better future.
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