Hello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer). It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.
I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye. I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on. There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well. But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19. It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.
Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021. The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen. The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems. But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*. Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.
As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion. Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace. I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that. I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it. Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities. I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories. Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.
As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs. Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain. In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me. I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play. Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before. I think I described it as “entrancing” to him. When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark. It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.
Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice. This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good. And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious. But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing. I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords. I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2. The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.
But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs. I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing. As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.
And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year. Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.
*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true. As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse. But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean. Unless that’s what’s already happening.