The conclusion that the United States is in its bread-and-circuses phase is just about impossible to escape, and our response to it proves the point.
It was warmish here, certainly warm by seasonal standards, last Friday, which happened to be Groundhog Day, the day we celebrate the pulverized pork product usually called “sausage.” Okay, I’ve been waiting to make that joke for years, and the fact that I do now reflects a mood that I think others share.
Here we are again. Each time it is worse than the time before. We’re speeding toward the point when, come November, we will have a choice between two men whom we know are unqualified to be president of the United States. The only positive thing that can be said for either is that he is not the other.
It was 45 years ago that a band called “The Buggles” had a hit record, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The song was big, as you’d expect, on MTV, which at the time played music videos. The song was wrong. Video didn’t kill the radio star, the internet did. (It also pretty well killed MTV, too.)
Last week in a closed hearing of a congressional committee looking at the pandemic and governments’ handling of it, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, admitted that much of what his agency and others told the country was just pulled out of thin air (literally), and that his agency and others under his control tried to quash any talk of the likely origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
So I’m thinking we should change the date of the new year. It’s not as ridiculous as it seems at first, so please hear me out. But first, a recap of how 2024 seems like an extension of 2023, only worse, though to be fair I have to note that things have been heading downhill for a while now; the decline is simply picking up speed.
True, it’s a little late to be talking about Christmas shopping, but throughout the year we need to give gifts from time to time, often to young people, so I don’t think it’s a waste of time to discuss presents a little even at this late date.
A year ago last week, having taken steps to preserve my privacy, I started an account on the ubiquitous website that at the time was called Twitter. Much has happened since then, as you may have heard.
It is as familiar a phrase as any in American English, usually remembered in the smooth baritone of Nat “King” Cole: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .” The song was written by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé in 1945. (The first line made more sense then.) It is secular, as Christmas songs go — both Wells and Tormé were Jewish — but it acknowledged that yes, this is a religious holiday.
It took a few months of daily communication requiring translation software for me to notice the similarity. The software — Google Translate, a product called DeepL, and Apple\’s translator (which does to languages what its maps did a few years ago to geography) — seems to be close to accurate much of the time. Sometimes that is good enough. Often it isn\’t. The mistranslations are so serious so often that one learns to ask the correspondent to rephrase the sentence. With luck the realization comes before much damage is done, and war is averted.