So we come to the end of 2011, which if we just use the year is 11, which in computer is binary, a digital representation of text and data, and well, there will not be another such date for awhile.
And, though I think one year is like another, let's take a little time to look back at 2011 and maybe the Top 10 interesting things that occurred, at least in my humble universe (in no particular order).
- We got out of Iraq: I will never forget when trying to tell Bill Gilbert that getting involved in a fight in the Third World, let alone the Middle East would be a sinkhole, and that no western country really ever succeeded in any such attempt. Bill's response back in 2001 was "this time we will do it right." Right. Bill also argued that it was easy to win a war against Al Qaeda, that all you need to do is "kill all the terrorists." Right again. Well, ten years and hundreds of thousands of lives later--5000 of whom belonged to our own millitary--we are finally out. I find it amusing that the likes of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (remember these are the same chuckleheads who said the war would pay for itself with America paying itself back with Iraqi oil) think President Obama made a mistake in doing ending our participation in Iraq especially since the President followed the basic script for leaving the Bush II administration prescribed in the first place. It does scare me though, when the likes of Michelle Bachman suggest we go after Iran. If we could not learn the lessons of Vietnam, at least we can try to learn the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. And, well, to those who wanted to avenge 9/11--which was more of a Saudi Arabia thing in the first place--keep the Simpsons in mind for Marge in one episode suggests "Revenge does not work." To which Homer asks "Then why are we in Iraq?" Enough said.
- Year of the People: The beauty of the Internet? It is the great equalizer, for once kids in Mozambique see things like Big Macs and Harry Potter, they want it too. Which ultimately is kind of a good thing, although sometimes I wish we would set our sights a little higher. But, again, as I remember arguing with Bill Gilbert, bad as Saddam Hussein was, at least Iraq was stable. And, that by blowing away the system they had, we were actually knocking the Iraqis back from getting towards some kind of actual democracy. But, the reality is call it the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street, it looks like the days of the Plutocracy are slowly fading around the globe. Meaning the citizens Iraq--like those here representing the 99%, and those in Egypt and Syria, would have eventually--maybe even this last spring--grown weary of oppression as did their neighbors and take their liberation into their own hands. Of course such revolution is always messy, and freedom is hardly free, but neither is it something to be meted out by a few.
- The year of the idiot candidates: I am not sure who is dumber: Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, or Donald Trump. But, it sure has been fun watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert dead pan the candidate's lines without even having to try to make them funny or ironic. The thing that kills me is how cerebral, for example, the conservatives suggest Gingrich, is. Or listening to Michelle Bachman note that the IQ at one of her rallys is high (how would she know?). Though I still don't understand how the bulk of their supporters are exactly those people who are exploited by the candidate's and parties policies. In saying this, I realize some folks might think I am stupid, but that is fine. British philospher and mathematician Bertrand Russell once said that "the problem with smart people is they fear they are stupid, and the problem with stupid people is they know they are smart." Better, Albert Einstein once said "the difference between genius and stupidity was that genius had its limits."
- Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: In the wake of our own human self importance, such a frightening disaster as the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that afflicted Japan earlier this year should be a sober reminder of how fragile and random life and incidents really are. I always hope in the wake of such a travail, we can kind of band together in a sort of "we're all Bozos on this bus" way, recognizing that say America cannot exist without Earth, but that Earth can surely survive without America. And, that maybe controlling something like nuclear power is not as ultimately safe as some think. Not that we should not explore new technologies, but maybe more think beyond the buck and 2012 profits.
- Tim Tebow: I saw a poll on MSNBC the other morning that noted the person most people would like to live next to is Tim Tebow. Now, I will grant that he has the heart of a lion, and never says die, and as my mate Marc Meltzer stated, he seems to make those around him better. But, I am still not sure he is a star in the making, and personally, I don't like public displays of devotion, as in prayer, any more than I like to watch a couple make out in public. Such acts cheapen the whole idea. So, that people imitating Tebow and his kneeling at school or at the mall just reminds me how little people want to think on their own. I mean, you can do whatever you want in your own home, and well, I am sure no church would object to a moment of thanks and prayer. Just keep it out of public areas. For my money, anyway, Cam Newton will prove to be the much better QB. As will Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton.
- Casey Anthony: I am not sure why this case drew national attention, but just like OJ Simpson, we--and that includes the media--could not stay away from this story. And, as with OJ Simpson, despite what surely looked like an Iraqi "slam dunk" of a case, well, Anthony got a walk. Huh? How does that happen? At least we can rest assured, as with Simpson, and Drew Peterson, and Dan White, Anthony will ultimately subvert herself in some majestic form of self-destruction and karma will make things right.
- Steve Jobs: The brains behind Apple died. Just to get some context here, according to Google, three of the top ten stories of 2011 were Jobs' passing, the IPad, and the IPhone 5, meaning Jobs had a hand in three of the top ten. All I can say is I LOVE my IPhone, and was excited simply to get an upgrade to a 4S from Diane this holiday season. But, next to a couple of guitar effects pedals, my IPhone is my all-time favorite toy. Thanks Steve for your vision and the simplicity of your brilliance. We will miss that.
- Warren Hellman: San Francisco financiaer, and then philantropist (and banjo player in The Wronglers) Warren Hellman died at the age of 77. Hellman pulled a sort of Andrew Carnegie, making a fortune, then lovingly giving a lot of it back to the public. Hellman was mostly known locally for being the force behind the "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass" festival in Golden Gate Park each fall. A completely free extravaganza, Hardly Strictly was a three-day orgy of the auditory, attracting stars like Steve Earle and Emmy Lou Harris and Richard Thompson, along with the likes of the Jayhawks and My Morning Jacket, placing up to ten stages with players and groups interacting and providing a magical weekend of music in the heart of hippie-land. Sadly, 2011 was Hellman's last, and it was the first where bluegrass pioneering woman Hazel Dickens--who passed away in April of this year, and whom Hellman was thinking of when he started Hardly Strictly--missed. As with Jobs, we will miss both of you.
- Gabby Giffords: If the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were acts of god, well, the holocaust surrounding Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was a totally man made affair. This Arizona tragedy again shows just how fleeting existence is. But, also how miraculous, in the Congresswoman's amazing--and diginified--survival and slow but steady recovery. And, while you don't want to get me started on gun control, the price of freedom is often exemplified by horrors like this and even 9/11. Not that we should expect or embrace them, but, as I said, freedom is not free. And, the cost is steep. But, neither is freedom something that can be controlled by a small group, let alone with money. Freedom just is.
- Game 6 of the World Series: I think of some of the most memorable baseball games I have witnessed that really counted, and this one is right there. Not that every game does not count, but at crunch time, in pressure situations. Like the World Series. Of course there is the Pirates and Yankees in 1960 which also happened to be the first game I ever watched end-to-end as a seven-year old. There are homers by Kirk Gibson and Joe Carter and Carlton Fisk that ended intense games of intense play. But, never can I remember a game like this year's #6 where the Rangers had St. Louis down to their final out more times than any team had a right. And those scrappy Cardinals refused to die, breaking the hearts and backs of Ron Washington and his troops. I am not sure how many times I said "amazing" during the final 90 minutes of that game, but I suspect it was more than Caroline Kennedy said "you know" when interviewed about running for her uncle's senate seat. And, after the win, the St. Louis star first sacker Albert Pujols left his home of ten seasons and took the next train and $254 million out of town to play out here in sunny California. Proving, as with all these stories, is that though nothing really changes, the only real constant in life is change.
Thanks for sticking with us in 2011. All our best for a healthy and happy 2012!