Brown River Queen cover art

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Three Resolutions

I made three resolutions for the new year.

First, I resolved to never stick my head in a fan again, even on a double-dog dare.  Especially not an all-steel industrial cooling fan that could probably serve as the number two port wing engine on a DC-3 in a pinch.  Those things have got torque, people. And forget ever getting your hair out of the manifold.

Second, I vowed to immediately cease and desist housing squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, or other small mammals in my britches.  I think the article that inspired that idea may have been a parody.  In any case, stitches are expensive (and in many cases embarrassing) and Mr. Chang down at the Super Plus Good One-Day Cleaners was very clear on the matter of more squirrels in his steam-press.

Finally, I have sworn to refrain from prank calling Luxembourg.  They never quite caught on to the Prince Albert in a can joke anyway, and I never learned German or French, so most of the calls deteriorated into both sides speaking very loudly and very slowly with neither person ever comprehending what was said.  Now that I think about it, that makes Luxembourg one of my best friends, so maybe I'll keep calling just for old times' sake.

So what did you, gentle reader, resolve to do differently in this shiny, hopeful new year?

Email me with your resolutions and I'll post the best and the strangest of them here in a few days.

In the meantime, BUY MY BOOKS!  Please.  I'm starving down here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: The Year That Was


If you're familiar with Battlestar Galactica (the recent remake, not that awful 80s thing), you know what 'frakked' means.

If you're not, well, frakked is a curse word, and it means exactly what you think it means.

And frakked is what 2011 was, at least to me.  There's just not a better way to sum up that wretched, terrible year than with the most forbidden perjorative in the language.

2011 brought the Tuttle household many things, few of them pleasant.  Terminal illness, first and foremost.  The relentless inexorable decline of a loved one, who suffered horribly from a disease that can't even be treated, much less cured.  The entire battery of our much-vaunted 21st century medicine couldn't do a thing; in the end, it was that old standby morphine that offered at least a little comfort.  No hope, of course, but perhaps a few moments of peace.

I won't even go any further down the list.  If I had to put a more polite label on 2011, I'd just call it the Year I Watched.  Watched, and waited, because ultimately that was all any of us could do.

So yeah, color me a little bitter about 2011.  Oh, I know there are chipper, smiling types out there who are just bursting with platitudes of the 'in every tragedy there is a lesson to be learned' variety, but I'm well past the age when I step in manure and immediately assume rainbow-hued unicorns are prancing nearby.

It's just manure.  And it stinks.

But now, it's 2012.  Surely the new year will bring with it fresh new changes...

What's that you say?  Mayan prophecy?  Armageddon, Doomsday, the End of the World, and you don't mean the song by REM?

Someone has been watching the History Channel.

Let me make a couple of things abundantly clear.  Yes, the world, and by the world I mean us, is teetering on the brink of complete chaos.  War or plague or climate change or any combination of calamity could effectively wipe us out next Tuesday, without warning.  I agree with that.

What I don't agree with is that 2012 is any riskier than 2000 or 1958 or 1426.  That state of chaos?  The constant threats from above, from below, from within?

That's what we high school graduates call the human condition.  We've added a few new threats in the last century -- nuclear war, designer viruses, global warming -- but the Doomsday List was already so long  three more entries barely tilted the poor odds further against us significantly.  It's as if Nature just shrugged and said 'Sure, I'll see your nuclear warheads, and raise you a supervolcano.'

In fact, the most significant feature of 2012 is the media frenzy surrounding its alleged status as the last year we'll ever put on a calendar.

First, that bit about the Mayan long count calendar.  The Maya weren't asserting that time ends of December 21st, 2012, any more than we claim the world ends at midnight every December 31st.  It doesn't.  We just start again with a new calendar, maybe one with kittens or pastoral scenes of rural Ireland. Nothing ends, we just reset the counter.

Which is exactly what the Maya were doing, until a modern-day writer decided to sell a few million copies of his doomsday book by claiming a (then) little-known calendar created by a vanished people who hadn't even figured out the wheel foretold the end of days.

And it did sell a lot of books.  Which is a far more compelling statement concerning the grisly curiosity of the public than it is evidence of any plausible bit of prophecy.

And then you've got your Nostradamus and your Mother Shipton and half a dozen other second-class prophets all claiming the end is nigh.  I wish the programming guys at the History Channel would study a little history now and then.  'Mother Shipton' never existed, save as the figment of a cash-strapped author's surprisingly plentiful imagination.  Nostradamus, as the Beatles sang, gets by with a little help from his friends, i.e., his translators, who are quite helpful when it comes to turning a phrase just so now and then.

Those quatrains are so flexible, in fact, that both the Axis and the Allies used them to predict their own inevitable victories during WWII.  Nice how that worked out, huh?

So put me down as thoroughly unimpressed when confronted with the usual suspects in regard to prescience.

In fact, the whole prophecy bit is so easy I'll throw my own hat in the ring.  Here, then, are my Prophetic Visions(tm) for the Year 2012:

1) A lot of people will get suddenly, horribly ganked by wars, the weather, illness, or the collapse of those enormous shelves at Home Depot.
2) The American political scene will descend even further into the arena of profound incompetence.
3) Bad, bad things will happen in places that end with the suffix '-stan.'
4) The rich will get richer, and the poor will get drunker, higher, and thinner.
5) Soda straws will see a collective 2% increase in flow efficiency.

There you have it.  Science and commerce march on, and if they step over a few bodies on the way that's just the way we roll in 2012.

So be careful out there, folks.  Watch your six.  Never assume it's just the wind scratching at the windows, because it might be the Maya, wanting to say 'We told you so.'

Oh, and 2011?

Frak you.