Should Old Acquaintance Be
We hear the melody pretty much once a year.
And at the exact same time. Often while transfixed in front
of the TV. After all, "You'd have to be crazy to be there
on that night."
A clustering spirit
from in and out of town
stopping mid stream
for the sheer joy
of looking up
A metaphor made flesh
each New Year’s Eve
And on "Happy New Year!" the music
begins and we can hear the lyrics in our head:
Should old acquaintance
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
We know they come from a poem by Robert Burns,
with all those odd sounding Scottish words like, auld, lang,
syne. They essentially mean "for the sake of old times."
And then there are extended
stanzas that we never knew existed, such as this pastoral
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
But the words usually play
second fiddle to the melody. We rarely hear them sung. It
is the instrumental versions that are more common to the ear.
But unheard of before, nor since, is a rendition played at
midnight December 31, 1969, during the second show at the
We had been to the Fillmore
just three weeks prior, unaware that Jimi Hendrix was to perform
there on New Year's Eve. So we missed his interpretation of
the song, as well as the main event— the live recording
of his Band of Gypsys LP. It was to be the only official
completely live LP released in his lifetime. He would be dead
nine months later. Who knew.
In a similar vein to what he had done earlier
in the year at Woodstock—when he transformed the Star
Spangled Banner into something from Mars— his Auld
Lang Syne could stop a clock.
Following a year-end countdown
and a traditional arrangement of the song that night, Hendrix
entered the proceedings 59 seconds later, with his mind blowing
alternative. And as a new year invariably seems to be a clarion
call for seeing old things in a new way, this audio YouTube
moment recorded 42 years ago epitomizes the very thing.
(Hendrix rendition 59 seconds into the audio)
On a night of a blizzard beyond
amidst a cheer of
he will come here to sit beside you
as he has on other
Some so sultry that the streets took to melting.
What will become of these
nights and seasons
of innuendo and
you? Having sworn off
love and seasons he wonders:
when the clock has
had the last laugh
when the crowd has disappeared.
if by deduction as Holmes
would have it
must be true.
Yet a line is drawn in such a way
the longest distance
is he to you.
The ground you might cover
is more one of mind than of
for nothing is more
than a start in a mad rush to infinity.
A safari of dragons
"let's raise a toast to pink elephants."
Better a spiral as if a labyrinth
which unlike a maze
is not designed to puzzle.
The way in is the
And oh the ecstasy while at the center.
2012: At Random
Taking a peek to see what will be going on
this year, here are a half dozen on the half shell—events,
oddities, movies and trivia, that got our attention as we
went 'agoogling. They are offered in no particular order.
1) December 21, 2012
This is the date the world will end. What
Wasn't that supposed to have happened this
past May 21st? Oh but that was an "end times" prediction,
driven from an extremist Christian perspective. This one comes
from a smorgasbord of beliefs. A little New Age here, a little
pseudo-science there and the Mayan calendar everywhere.
The "scientific" belief is particularly
intriguing as it mirrors the plot of the current movie Melancholia
wherein—spoiler alert—another planet is supposed
to come crashing into Earth. And in so doing, wiping out all
those nest eggs we were building for a future never to come.
Damn. Don't you hate when that happens? And yes of course
there was the apocalyptic movie released in 2009, entitled
2012. We didn't see it. Not our cup of tedium.
In lieu of the planet Melancholia…meet
Planet X or its "nom de guere," Nibiru
(which is also the name for a computer game released in 2005,
and sounds far sexier than the ubiquitous "X.")
According to NASA, this is not going to happen.
Phew! Though come to think of it, hasn't NASA been off base
a few times before?
Which brings us to the Mesoamerican Long
Count Calendar, or the "Mayan Calendar" for
short. What is interesting about this approach to marking
the passage of time, is that it is a non-repeating calendar.
(Meaning we suppose, that you need to buy birthday gifts only
It started, at least as calculated by our
Gregorian Calendar, on August 11, 3114 BCE, and will end December
21, 2012 AD.
What we find especially puzzling, is why the
Mayan Calendar holds so much sway in the matter? At least
to a rather sizable fringe? What is so special about it, compared
to say the Gregorian, Hebrew, Buddist, Hindu, Coptic, or any
of the other 22 calendars we found listed on line?
We never hear about the Mayans otherwise.
Nor does anyone seem to pay them much heed on a daily basis.
Then all of a sudden, their calendar signals that the end
of the world is upon us, and it spawns a whole cottage industry
of apocalyptic fear. And that fear, then trumps all other
calendars that make no such catastrophic claims.
We're going to go out on a limb here and predict
it won't happen. So yes, do not put off your Christmas shopping
until December 22nd when the malls will be packed, and make
you wish it really was the end of the world.
2) The Olympic Games
They will be held in London. Which is noteworthy,
in that it will mark the first time in the history of the
modern games (dating back to 1896), that a city will have
been the host three times. It will also be noteworthy, because
it will have the ugliest Olympic logo of all time. At least
that is our opinion. And we have now come to learn, one that
has been shared in many quarters. Apparently, there was a
great deal of controversy when this "thing" was
first unveiled almost five years ago.
Those large zig-zaggy shapes, are suppose
to read "2012." To us this contraption looks like
something with a bad back trying to walk. And dressed in bad
colors no less. But as the stated goal is aimed at reaching
young people, they will no doubt get it immediately and think
it cool. (Sidebar: Why are marketers always trying to reach
young people, when it is "old" people who have the
money to spend?)
And then there is this even more horrific
version, for the Paralympics. These are the games in which
the world's disabled athletes compete. It is the first time
that these two events will have similar logos. We suggest
that the Paralympics committee reject any tie ins of this
sort in the future.
And…these logos cost £400,000
according to a report by the BBC!
For the record, reflecting more provincial
times and in a more black and white world, here is the logo
for the games last played in London.
You make the call.
In any case, let the games begin! As we hold
our breath to see who takes home the gold for synchronized
3) The Titanic and the Movies
April 14, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary
of the sinking of the Titanic. The last survivor of that disaster,
Millvina Dean, died at age 97 on May 31, 2009. It might have
been particularly poignant if she had lived but three more
years. Although, given this "age of hype," she might
have been carted around like a museum piece. Rest in peace
It is unclear as to how this event will be
marked, other than for certain, there will be a re-release
of the 1997 James Cameron film. In 3D! Disaster! This time
in your face!
This should send hordes of throngs back into
the theaters, to add to the astonishing $1.8 billion gross
it amassed worldwide the first time around.
Other movies due for release this year that
caught our attention, mostly for their audaciousness, and
again in no particular order…
The Great Gatsby
— A remake starring a much more grown up version of
DiCaprio, than the lad we see in the poster above.
Two Lincoln films — Lincoln
by Disney starring Daniel-Day Lewis and Sally Field and…
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Swear! A word for word synopsis from the net, in fine print
Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, secretly battles with the
undead as an ax-throwing, highly trained vampire assassin.
Vampires are presented as the real conflict behind the Civil
A premise even more outrageous than Lincoln battling vampires:
orphan discovers her uncanny talent for butter sculpture
in an Iowa town where her adoptive family lives. The talent
pits her against the ambitious wife of the reigning champion,
in the annual butter sculpture competition.
Bullet To The Head — Another
subtle and nuanced film written by, and starring, Sylvester
Stallone. Yo! No synopsis necessary.
Yes, based on the board game.
The Three Stooges
— another Farelly brothers offering, for the Dumb
and Dumber set. In watching the trailer, we note that
nuns are once again being spoofed. How irreverent! Like
that hasn't been done ad nauseum in movies and pop culture
in general, over these past fifty years.
Though Larry David is in it, he does not
appear in the trailer. One might wonder what he brings to
this slap-schtick, if one were inclined to wonder
about Larry David at all. We will curb our enthusiasm for
this one, so to speak.
— Regarding the play: it opened in London in 1985…it
is the longest-running musical in the world… the second-longest
in the West End...third-longest running show in Broadway
history. (Wikipedia). And in celebration of its
25th year in 2010, it was sent on a worldwide tour.
This then is a movie for the twelve people
who didn't see the play. Or for those curious to see if
a star-studded cast, including Russell Crowe, can sing?
Mirror, Mirror — No! No!
And with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen? No! No!
The Big Wedding
— A heavyweight cast— DeNiro, Keaton, Sarandon,
Williams—trying to pull off a lightweight premise:
"A long-divorced couple fakes being married as their
family unites for a wedding."
Because divorce of course, is such an aberration
in that only 50% of marriages end up that way. (79% for
cops, we were told recently by a divorced cop.)
4) The 100-Watt Bulb Goes Dark?
On October 1, congress will enforce the new
standards requiring that light bulbs use at least 25% less
energy. (This in delay as to what was supposed to happen on
January 1st). In effect, what is happening, is that traditional
incandescent light bulbs—which essentially use the same
technology as Thomas Edison's original one—will begin
to be phased out. Alas Horatio, I knew him well.
They will be superseded by those squiggly
compact florescent lights (CFL's), which are highly energy
efficient and now account for 25% of sales. Edison's bulb,
while still dominant at 60% share of market, is said to waste
energy "generating more heat than light." (Always
thought that was just a cliche…a figure of speech).
The 100-Watt bulb, being particularly wasteful,
will be targeted for extinction first. Which, according to
a recent article in the Business section of The New York
Times, is beginning to result in a hoarding and a run
on these bulbs.
Imagine this scenario one day, dealing with
light bulbs in some dark alley: "Pssst! Hey, you wanna
score some 100-Watters? I got frosty or clear."
5) Numbers That Numb
IBM will complete a super computer some time
this year, for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
They will name it Sequoia and it will reach a peak
performance of 20 Petaflops. Wow! Er…what's a Petaflop?
A "flop," in this context, is a
floating-point operations per second which is measure of a
computer's performance (Wikipedia). A Petaflop then,
is the ability of a computer to do one quadrillion floating-point
operations per second.
Some numbers transcend a brain's ability to
wrap its lobes around them. One quadrillion? In one
second? We can't help but wonder how many "flops"
would there be in a nano second, which is one billionth
of a second.
Do not try this calculation at home.
6) An Election Year and… Grover
The presidential campaign this year promises
to be an ugly one. What else can you expect following a year
in which Donald Trump (bad hair and all) issued a challenge
to the president to prove his legitimacy via a birth certificate.
Not to mention the fact that a sizable percentage of Americans
still think Obama is a Muslim, along with all the inferences
drawn from that, still existing in the minds of many voters.
Certainly enough voters to decide an election.
The truth is, all presidential elections
throughout American history, at some point turn ugly. All
wind up slinging mud.
One in particular of which we have heard tell,
was: "Marred by exceptional political acrimony and personal
invective" (Wikipedia.)… Grover Cleveland
vs. James Blaine in 1884. Corruption in politics was the central
issue that year, as we came to learn upon further reading.
What makes this one "so today,"
is the sexual meanderings of a man in high places—in
this case, Grover Cleveland. It was brought to light that
he had fathered a child out of wedlock, and this sweet refrain
from Blaine's supporters ensued: "Ma, Ma, where's My
Campaign poster attacking Cleveland's
Cleveland immediately owned up to it, and
revealed that he had been paying child support to the mother.
In being so forthright, he managed to defuse the issue. (Hear
that John Edwards?).
For their part, Cleveland's supporters dredged
up old allegations that Blaine had corruptly influenced legislation
in favor of the railroads. Which resulted in his own political
cartoon and refrain: "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine,
the continental liar from the state of Maine…"
An anti-Blaine cartoon presents him
as the "tattooed man," with many indelible scandals.
What we found far more compelling regarding
Cleveland though, was not his scandal, nor how he dealt with
it. Rather, some other factors regarding his election and
a subsequent event to come.
For starters, he was a bachelor. In our times
of "family values," can anyone imagine a bachelor
being elected President of the United States? (Cleveland's
sister acted as official hostess for the first couple of years
during his administration.)
While in office—literally in the White
House— he married a twenty one year old named Frances
Folsom. At that age, she remains the youngest first lady in
He was 49 at the time! Can you imagine a 49
year old president with a 21 year old wife in 2012?
"This marriage was unusual because Cleveland
was the executor of his friend Oscar Folsom's estate, and
had supervised Frances' upbringing after her father's death.
But the public did not take exception to the match."
(from Allan Nevins' 1932 Pulitzer Prize winning biography
of Grover Cleveland). Shades of Woody Allen? Today's tabloids
would have a field day with this.
In our supposed age of enlightenment and tolerance,
and regardless of one's political affiliations, it is inconceivable
that any of this would be acceptable today. The word "ugly"
would be taken to a whole other level, given our 24/7 news
cycle and YouTube environment.
Election day on Tuesday November 6, 2012,
will no doubt have followed an ugly campaign. Much mud will
have been slung by that time. But that will be nothing new.
What would be new, is to have a future man or woman with an
"unorthodox" personal life, running for the presidency.
The obsession over Obama's birthplace or religious affiliation,
would seem like child's play in comparison.
Quote of the Month
Be always at war with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors,
and let each new year find you a better man.