While many will bravely take their birthday spankings, no secular ritual seems to incite more whining than that of the New Year’s Resolution. Those who do not participate do so with scorn and derision, you can almost see the spit fly from their lips with their ready quip about why they are better than such a ritual. Others list their resolutions with the temerity of a spurned lover waiting by the phone. For a ritual that more of my friends participate in than Christmas Mass, I can’t name anyone who actually likes New Year’s Resolutions.
Well I like them.
Yes, I understand that the first of the year is a totally arbitrary date. So what? So is Christmas. If you want to set goals in June, no one is going to complain. The problem is that most of us don’t. We hem and haw about how we don’t have any time and then another years slips by and our dreams sit in a tin box with our VHS tapes and our old photos and the rest of the things we never touch. They become memories, archival.
Whether it is arbitrary or not, the turning of a calendar year is end and beginning of a cycle, as much as the turn of the day into night or Spring into Fall. For us humans, the winter is our time of greatest hardship. It is cold. Food is scarce. The landscape is barren. It is why in this season we gather and feast. It is why we worship and *decorate mighty trees that leap inexplicably higher year after year, without death touching their leaves. It is also the time when the sticker shock of that big increase hits you: wait, 2010 is the end of the decade? Didn’t we just have the Millennium? Wasn’t that, like, yesterday?
Thus it is natural for us to think about the struggles we’ve faced and, in turn, where our life is headed. If looking at all the shit we didn’t get done last year doesn’t make us want to strategize about what to get done next year then I don’t know what will. We have made it through the dark heart of winter and spring promises new beginnings. You can have a say in what those beginnings will look like, or you can be one of those people who lets life happen to you.
I know, I know: now you are going to tell me that no one ever sticks with their New Year’s Resolutions for more than a few weeks. But if indeed we are so undisciplined that we only choose novel-writing, house cleaning and smoothie drinking over chain smoking, hooker shopping and pimple popping for several weeks a year than perhaps we should welcome even that brief period of accomplishment. And every time we fall off the wagon we have to put our panties back on, take two Excedrin, and hop back on it. Or rather, climb awkwardly up its wretched timbre, ignoring the hangovers of our chosen vice, cursing the splinters that imperil our ascent to righteousness. There’s no need to go all Amy Winehouse on our lives just because we suck at setting goals.
If anything, the problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that we need to spend more time on them, not less. We would all have shinier skin and resumes if April showers brought May resolution evaluations. The longest day of summer should be celebrated as a massive deadline crossing, wherein we get as much done in that day as we can, before dividing what’s left of our goals in half and throwing ourselves into renewed commitment. This occasion is marked by running through red tape, like winning a race, but we all get a turn. We may eat little white cakes with red check marks, and we are only allowed as many as there are achievements completed. When the fall trees lose their leaves, we should have a holiday for the slashing of our goals, a year-end-overstock-going-out-of-business sale for our annual To Do list. It would be celebrated by dressing like Used Car Salesmen and wishing people, “Act Now!”
Then when Santa’s checking his list, we already know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. And as the year’s end encroaches, we can see that the birth of the New Year is a cause for celebration. Because, arbitrary or not, history is about to put a great big lock on the filing cabinet of 2009 and that knowledge puts a gravitas on those of us who haven’t quite gotten our homework done. And isn’t it appropriate that the lightness of the foundling 2010 should be counter-balanced with commitments to all we hope this year should grow up to become? Who we are in 2009 has just become Who We Once Were. And 2010 is completely open, can only be defined as Who We Will Be. For those of us who look back in regret, it is an official chance for renewal. Either way, the looking back and forward is healthy, and to be encouraged. For those who accomplished much, we celebrate but, the old year being deceased, we are not allowed the humbrage of resting on our laurels. Instead, we collect our laurels along with our unfinished lists in a mighty heap, for everyone has at least one to contribute. Then we eulogize ourselves, burying the old with a baptism of alcohol poisoning, feasting, excess, and yes, fire: our laurels and our To Do lists will make such a beautiful bonfire, and the ashes, ink and rose petals must be trampled under our dizzy dancing feet.
2 Songs for the New Year:
*Thus cutting down a Christmas Tree is a sacrilege, like killing a Jew to celebrate Easter.
Funny how capitalism ruins things, even when they set out to do something swell. The Treasure Island Music Festival is a fine example. Not that the fest was ruined as a whole, but their efforts at environmentalism left the stale taste of unfiltered Oakland water in my mouth. They made big efforts to make the show green. Instead of trash bins, you had landfill, recycling and compost bins, with tips on what goes where. Kudos for that. But in other respects their need to be profitable got in the way of their stewardship to mama earth.
Firstly, I was irritated by their transit plan. There was no parking on Treasure Island. Instead one was supposed to take a free shuttle from the ATT Center. The problem with that is that the ATT Center is not on BART. Anyone (such as myself) who doesn’t live in San Francisco is expected to take a one hour BART ride to the city, catch a short cab ride to the shuttle and then shuttle back over the bridge I just came from. So I’m expected to commit to a trip that would likely take upwards of two hours for a destination that is twelve minutes drive from my house? No thanks. I suppose the folks planning the event live in the city and don’t think much of us “bridge and tunnel” types. Their site offered no advice as to how to get there if you weren’t coming from the city. We took a taxi there and hopped on the all-nighter bus to get ho me. Apparently some others had the same idea because the taxi stand had more people waiting than you can fit into your average Mission dive bar. The festival bragged about having zero-emissions buses but when someone who BARTs and bikes to get around has to take a cab just to get to your show, you’ve erred on the green master-plan somewhere.
But this is an understandable problem, considering they are dealing with an island in the middle of the Bay. Their plan to get rid of bottled water on the other hand offered far more reason for me to make my indignant face. A big part of their green plan was not selling bottled water at the festival. We were encouraged to bring our own sealed bottles into the site. I suppose this was to keep people from smuggling liquor in and out of the premises, otherwise I can’t imagine why I couldn’t bring an unsealed, empty bottle and refill it there. So instead of using a container I already had at home, I bought water to take into the fest. It defeats the point of not selling bottled water if I have to buy bottled water at CVS. Then when we get inside, we check out the “refilling stations.” Here they are charging three dollars to refill your water bottle or one dollar to refill the metal canisters they are selling at the festival. These little mementos cost fifteen bucks. So folks who didn’t bring their own water are encouraged to shell down a wad of cash to buy a metal water bottle that they probably don’t need and likely won’t keep after the festival so they can
use less plastic for the next two days. What a blow to consumerism!
OK, I’m through kvetching. The Treasure Island Music Festival is still the coolest music fest I’ve ever been to.
More details on the greatness to follow!
My Republican friend says I should just calm down. People all over the world are working hard to stop global climate change. I wonder if he is looking at the same people I am. Scary thing is, he is.
For example, he is probably looking at the new energy bill as a big step forward. The Bush Administration has pledged to a 35-mph fleet-wide fuel economy average by 2020. So in twelve years we are setting a standard for fuel economy that is five miles per gallon higher than the Model A Ford introduced in 1927. Bravo! If you still think this is an accomplishment take a look at SAE Internationalâ€™s Supermileage studies. They run a contest every year to see who can engineer a vehicle with the highest gas mileage. The biggest loser in this competition produced a car that can get 198 miles per gallon. The car made by the 2007 winner could drive 1,541 miles on a single gallon of gas. Now even if we can argue that those cars are expiremental and donâ€™t provide room for groceries or even a CD player, it is still enough to make us ponder the U.S.â€™s status as technological innovators of environmental stewardship.
To top it all off, the Bush administration is using these paltry standards as an excuse to deny California the right to cap its CO2 emissions. The California law requires new automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes by 30% by 2016.
In the past, the California standards have paved the way for other states to follow behind with stricter standards. But now the EPA is arguing that California was granted those waivers because their state had special circumstances and the U.S. needs to have a singular, federal standard (So much for the Republicans as the party promoting statesâ€™ rights). With global warming threatening to drop a world of hurt on the whole planet, the EPA says this hardly applies only to California. No matter that this was a bill passed in 2002, long before the national discussion of such standards. No matter that the EPA has historically granted fifty such waivers to California and never once denied them.
Stephen L. Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, put it this way, â€œThe Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution â€” not a confusing patchwork of state rules.â€ Or to put it totally the same way, David McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, â€œEnhancing energy security and improving fuel economy are priorities to all automakers, but a patchwork quilt of inconsistent and competing fuel economy programs at the state level would only have created confusion, inefficiency, and uncertainty for automakers and consumers.â€ What a remarkable coincidence that couldnâ€™t possibly be explained by the EPA taking their cues from an oil lobbyistâ€™s press release!
In fact, both journalists and politicians are making the claim that the energy lobby allowed the government to proceed on their new emissions standards in exchange for a denial of Californiaâ€™s claim.
According to the L.A. Times:
Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state Air Resources Board, said the California standards, which are scheduled to begin to take effect in 2009, could be met by auto companies with existing technology. So far, she said, 12 states have chosen to adopt Californiaâ€™s standards, pending a waiver approval. Others are in the process of doing so. If all 50 states adopted Californiaâ€™s law, it would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 1.4 gigatons, about twice what the federal standards would achieve by then, Nichols said.
So now Barbera Boxer, (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has subpoenaed the EPA to provide a better reason and they have replied with a box full of censored paperwork. Apparently such top secret info cannot be entrusted to the U.S. Congress. Oh and Governor Schwarzenegger has made it very clear that California is suing the EPA. Who said politics is boring?
So, in summary, our government must get the permission of the auto/oil industry to pass even the most pitiful legislation. And to get such permission, they must stab another hole in the lifeboat on this sinking ship.
I know you’re busy so I’ll keep it short. Now that you’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize (congrats!), more folks are asking you to toss your hat in the presidential ring.
I’d like to counter that opinion. First of all — and please don’t take this personally — you’re a white guy. Isn’t it about time we had someone for president that isn’t a WASP (yeah, Kennedy was Catholic: we’re so diverse!). There is no affirmative action policy up in the White House, but I think it’s time for a change from the same ole same old.
Second, and far more importantly, there are a lot of folks that don’t take you seriously. I know, it’s sad that people don’t want to accept that climate change is real. But those people justify their skepticism by claiming all your good work is just a vy for the presidency. Don’t feed into this way of thinking.
I know lots of people are saying that being president would give you the power to implement the changes that need to be made. But think of all you have accomplished in the last four years. Do you really want to stop all your good work and start fundraising? Do you want to talk about social security and learn how to laugh in such a way that the media does not find offensive? Then, once elected, you cannot focus exclusively on global warming. You would have to meet foreign dictators and do photo-ops with crippled puppies and sign or veto bills. Not to mention getting entangled in this war, dealing with Korea and Iran.
Wouldn’t you rather keep hanging out with Polar scientists and spreading the good gospel of truth?
The American people didn’t really get to know you until you “lost” (I was in Florida; I know the truth) the presidency and devoted yourself whole-heartedly to your true calling.
Thanks for your time.