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A Very Happy New Year’s Eve, to Whatever Extent Possible

The calendar on our computer screen says that today is the last year of 2018, and as hard as it is to believe we assume that’s true. Although it’s been a long and and hard slog through the past 12 months, the years still somehow seem to pass more quickly the older we get.
Longstanding journalistic traditions dictate that our New Year’s Eve essay be either a look back and the year that’s ending, or a look ahead to the year to come, but on this frigid Kansas night we can’t quite muster the energy for either desultory chore.
In keeping with our own recent tradition we’ll once again joke that we’re hesitant to look back on the past year for fear of being turned into a pillar of salt, an Old Testament allusion our more modern readers might not get, and this year the joke seems more apt than ever. We’re talking about 12 long months of President Donald Trump and the damned Democrats, after all, and all those screwy other countries and the business world and the broader popular culture and our own personal lives added little to savor. The obituaries were more brutal than usual, too.
The annus horribilis of 2018 saw the the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush and President George H.W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain, and we also sensed the passing of a more family values and war heroic and fact-based era of the Republican party. When the novelist and journalist and essayist Tom Wolfe died we failed to think of a new favorite living writer, and when the Middle Eastern expert Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton and triumphant-in-the-Cold-War Russian expert Richard Pipes of Harvard we knew there was no replacement, and the death of the imminent columnist Charles Krauthammer left the intellectual ranks of an increasingly anti-intellectual conservative movement seemed at least as severely depleted.
The ranks of the American popular culture that used to provide succor from politics were similarly depleted. The fleet-fingered guitar-and-banjo-picker and all-around country-and-western music entertainer Roy Clark died, so did the elegantly incisive and hilariously New York City Jewish novelist Philip Roth, as well as the long under appreciated television sit-com actress and big-time movie director and idiosyncratic sexpot Penny Marshall, and William Goldman, the guy who wrote the screenplay for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” as well as Stan Lee, the guy who invented “Spiderman” and a bunch of other still-hot comic book super heroes we remember from our comic book-reading youths. Judging by what we occasionally hear on the radio or see on television or watch on the internet or read from the last offerings from the bestseller lists, we don’t find any sufficient replacements standing at the ready.
Those far more hip and up-to-date folks at The Washington Post filled some space on a slow news day with a traditional list of what’s “in” and what’s “out” in the coming year, and we must admit we can’t make neither hide nor hair of it, as we still sometimes say here in Kansas. Out here in Kansas we hadn’t noticed most of what was apparently “in” in 2018, much less noticed that it’s soon to be “out,” and as of now we’re only vaguely familiar with what’s about to the “in.” It seems that the Marvel comic books’ superhero Captain Marvel is due to supplant D.C. Comics’ Captain America as the “in” superhero at your local cinema, and certain celebrities we’ve never hard are will surpass some other celebrities we’e never heard of, and so far none of them seem half so entertaining as the recently deceased Ken Berry, the minor sit-com star who memorably pratfall-ed his way through the short-lived but still-hilarious “F Troop” way back in the ’60s.
On the political front, we don’t need the more hip and up-to-date fellows at The Washington Post to tell us it’s going to a long slog through 2019. Trump won’t budge on his campaign promise from way back in 2016 to build a big beautiful border wall, the upcoming Democratic majority soon to be installed after a landslide mid-term election won’t give him a penny for it, and a partial government shutdown will probably dominate at least the first few days or weeks or months of the new year. Political gridlock will probably prevent anything else from getting done legislatively, that pesky special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” will persist, so we’ll hold out hope that the free market economy and longstanding governmental institutions that have somehow so far survived both Presidents Barack Obama and Trump will continue to prevail.
In the meantime we’ll focus on making our personal lives go somewhat better in the coming year, and urge you to do the same, as we can’t do much about the rest of it. ┬áNo matter how it works out over the next 12 months, have a most merry New Year’s Eve.

— Bud Norman

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Happy New Year, and the Extra Day

So far, at least, 2017 is off to a promising start. The very last of the past annus horribilis was mostly spent in the company of some dear old friends at a fabulous Tahitian-style bar improbably located in our dearest and oldest friend’s old barn well south of town, but we were home well enough in advance of the drunk drivers and police patrols and in time to hoist a still-sober and solitary beer for the New Year.
Although somewhat groggy we were among the relatively few in the pews at Sunday morning’s worship at our humble church on the near west side, and after that we somehow made our way across Kellogg and up the Canal Route and over the northeast-side by-pass and on to our beloved folks’ swank old folks home, where we had a nice meal and some good conversation. A nice nap soon followed, followed by tape-delayed but convincing Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ win over the Bradley University Braves on the internet, and nothing on the internet seemed all the disturbing, and because the first day of the New Year falls on the first day of the week the federal government and America’s business arrangements seem to have allowed us another days’s procrastination from some bothersome chores of another year.
That faulty kitchen sink won’t wait another day, nor the long-delayed kitchen clean-up we’ve been procrastinating until that chore has been completed, or any of the other household repairs that need tending, and there’s no putting off all the rest of what surely comes Tuesday. All the rest of the world’s news will surely come back through the internet then, too, and we’re no more hopeful about any of that. One of the dear old friends we spent much of New Year’s Eve with is a fellow Republican and quite hopeful about the coming year, as he’s convinced president-elect Donald Trump will soon make America great again, and our beloved parents who have been through a Depression and a World War and a Cold War and more recessions and relocations than they can count are somewhat more cautiously hopeful, but we all happily agreed not to talk about any of that.
Until all that comes to some sort of conclusion we will wish each and everyone of you, and all your dear friends and beloved family, a very happy and extended-by-one day New Year.

— Bud Norman

New Year’s Eve, 2014

We had ambitions to write something about the latest economic news today, but that requires too much research and reasoning, the weather is too dismal to deal with the dismal science, and the date on the calendar makes it too easy to put off such serious matters until next year. New Year’s Eve is best spent at leisure, recuperating from the year past and readying oneself for the one ahead.
Some people celebrate the occasion by getting rip-roaring drunk, which might be useful for recuperating but is not conducive to readying. Others prefer a quiet and contemplative evening at home, but even their most thoughtful resolutions are usually long forgotten by the time the weight loss programs and smoking cessation drugs and health club membership ads have disappeared from the airwaves sometime in early February. Our preference is for something in between, with a couple of convivial libations along with a hearty repast in the company of few old friends before heading home to quiet and solitude to steel ourselves for the the coming months of cold and barren winter and whatever might come after that. A few inexplicably lucky folks will spend the day golfing on some publicly funded by otherwise private golf in warm and sunny Hawaii, but we’ll forgo our rants about that guy until another day.
Tomorrow is a day off for almost everyone, which is certainly worth celebrating, and we still have a few tweaks left on a novel that will be e-published any minute now and a few other important end-of-the-year chores to attend to, so we’ll leave the macro-economics and the rest of that big picture stuff until next week. Whatever plans you might have for the rest of the day, we thank you for spending a moment of it here and hope the rest goes even better.
Happy New Year.

— Bud Norman