Year End Notes: 2005 in Perspective, and 2006 Predictions
Tai Moses over at AlterNet has conveniently compiled, for 2005, The Ten Best Top-Ten Lists, saving us all the trouble of all the research involved in finding out what everyone was doing to assess the year.
There we find Merriam-Webster Online has posted the top the most-looked-up words of 2005, and those would be -
The first one is curious. Why would folks look up "integrity" at all? The word is not obscure. Moses: "I think these people were perfectly confident they knew the meaning of integrity until certain others started throwing the word around like last Sunday's bagels, and so, head in hand, people went back to double-check, only to find that integrity was still integrity and in shorter supply than ever."
Well, yes. Words are thrown around in such a way that up is down, and if DeLay and Cunningham and Frist are men of integrity, one does lose one's bearings. So you look up the word to make sure you're not crazy.
And as you recall, the second on the list, "refugee," was controversial after Hurricane Katrina - the New Orleans folks stuck in Houston shouldn't be called refugees, as that word seemed fraught with overtones. The word "refugee" is often used as shorthand for "political refugee" - someone displaced from his or her homeland because of the action, or inaction, of some malevolent government. The idea was with this "act of nature" the word shouldn't be used, as no one meant these people harm and forced them to seek asylum in another nation - they were just camping out in the next state. Of course you can argue the word was just fine, for just that reason - for these folks their government failed them and all that. Maybe so, and maybe not, but they were seeking some refuge, and why not use the word? That's only logical. We were told that was not logical - these folks were not seeking political asylum from some dictator in a new nation - so folks looked up the word a lot. Can you use it with its unembellished meaning, or is it always political? It seems people almost always use the word in the political sense, and the media stopped using it for the displaced in Texas motels and school gymnasiums. But it was a perfectly good word.
The others on the list may or may not be tied to current events. Some obviously are. But "insipid" in the fifth spot? That's curious.
In any event, skipping over the list of the commonly reported birds of 2005, even though bird watching has become wildly popular in the United States in the last several years (the northern cardinal is tops, by the way), we come to the Top Ten Global 'YouthSpeak' Words for the year.
1. Crunk: A Southern variation of hip hop music; also meaning "fun" or "amped."
2. Mang: Variation of "man," as in "S'up, mang?"
3. A'ight: All right, as in "That girl is nice, she's a'ight."
4. Mad: A lot, as in "She has mad money."
5. Props: Cheers, as in "He gets mad props!"
6. Bizznizzle: This term for "business" is part of the Snoop Dogg/Sean John-inspired lexicon, as in "None of your bizznizzle!"
7. Fully: In Australia, an intensive, as in "fully sick."
8. Fundoo: In India, Hindi for "cool."
9. Brill!: In the U.K., the shortened form of "brilliant!"
10. "S'up": Another in an apparently endless number of "whazzup?" permutations.
For those of us who grew up in the late fifties and graduated from college as the sixties ended, this is just sad. We had our moment when we changed common speech - far out, man - but that became mainstream, and then commercial, and then became quaint, or deeply ironic, or forgotten, or just embarrassing. We got old. The grandkids do that now, and more power to 'em. It's amusing to note. And any child of the sixties who ever uses any of these ten expressions should be ridiculed, even out here in Hollywood. Turn your back. Just walk away. Your moment has passed. Let the new kids play with the language. It's not yours anymore, or at least, this part of it is not.
Moses also covers the top ten Most Commonly Encountered Hoaxes and Chain Letters, and in the age of email that's worth a glance, and covers the Top Ten Baby Names of 2005 - Emma for girls and Aidan for boys (Jacob was tops the previous four years). Aidan? What's with that? We're thinking Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne or what? Does this have something to do with the character Aiden Shaw from "Sex and the City" on HBO? It's a mystery. But it's just a name. Kids adjust.
Moses also points to Popular Science with its list of the The Worst Jobs in Science, where number four is "Kansas Biology Teacher." Ha, ha. Also listed are "manure inspector" and "extremophile excavator." That last one? Visit the Searles lakes here in California, where the US Geological Survey team has been working for years. They discovered the "extremophile" microbe thriving in the arsenic-saturated mud there. To harvest that mud, once thought to be sterile, the researchers deal with days well over one hundred degrees, the salt-caked lakes, and noxious gas - hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, highly volatile methylated amines. But these microbes eat arsenic and render it harmless. Someone's got to go get some of these and see how they do that. That's worth a read.
What may not be worth a read is the Top Ten Grocery Lists of 2005 - abandoned shopping lists - although some are definitely kinky. You might also want to glance at the Top Ten List of Data Disasters - but just as I typed that my system mysteriously decided to reboot and dump everything I had been accumulating in files on screen during the day. And that's actually true. Luckily most of the software is set to "Auto Recover" and with some fancy searching (the "auto" part is a bit of a joke) I found the files. Sometimes irony is a pain. At least this wasn't like the woman who dropped a ceramic pot on her laptop. Oops.
Other lists? Well, there's the Top Ten Out-of-Print Books for 2005 - those volumes people want and cannot get any longer, so they have to settle for used copies -
1. Sex (1992), Madonna
2. Sisters (1981), by Lynne Cheney
3. The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel (1981), by Felicitas D. Goodman
4. Where Troy Once Stood (1991), by Iman Wilkens
5. The Principles of Knitting (1988), by June Hemmons Hiatt
6. General Printing (1963), by Glen Cleeton
7. The New Soldier (1971), edited by John Kerry
8. The Lion's Paw (1946), by Robb White
9. Dear and Glorious Physician (1959), by Taylor Caldwell
10. The Book of Counted Sorrows (2003), by Dean Koontz
Who knows what to make of that, except Sisters is a steamy tale of lesbian love written, a long time ago, by the wife of Vice President Cheney. The John Kerry book is in demand, a bit, and not really available. That fits.
Moses also recommends the FBI list of their current Ten Most Wanted Fugitives - Osama bin Laden to James J. Bulger. Whatever. And she mentions Parade magazine has an annual list of the World's Ten Worst Dictators, but that isn't out yet, although last year's list is here.
Of course Moses is being humorous.
There are the serious lists, of course. Over at Media Matters, where they are perpetually angry with the right-wing wind machine, you get things like this - Chris Matthews: 2005's Misinformer of the Year and the Most Outrageous Statements of 2005, and the more topical Top 12 Media Myths And Falsehoods On The Bush Administration's Spying Scandal.
Everybody likes lists - but these look backward at the year gone by.
What about the year to come? What about predictions?
Well, the Daily Times of Pakistan tells us this - Giant Asteroid to Hit Earth in 2006. Of this means everything that follows is pointless - Arnold Schwarzenegger will be re-elected governor of California, Internet giant Google will suffer a setback - and Brazil will hang on to the World Cup - unless we're all dead.
It seems the Schwarzenegger thing, along with a prediction the Bush administration will bring back the draft, comes from the website exodus2006.com where they use the Torah4U software on the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Torah. All this is hidden there, numerically, so we're talking your digital Kabbalah here. In the sixties Rabbi Saul Lieberman of the Jewish Theological Seminary is reputed to have introduced a lecture by Scholem on Kabbalah with a statement that Kabbalah itself was "nonsense," but the academic study of Kabbalah was "scholarship." That was before the software, of course. The software also predicts that August 3, 2006 will be a blood-drenched day - "yet just a mere shadow of the calamity that will befall us in 2010." So stay home.
But it was the psychic Annie Stanton who said catastrophe will come this year in the form of a massive asteroid crashing into the planet. No software. We also learn Anita Nigam from India does sports betting. Pay her and you get outcomes of English football's Premier League matches, but her World Cup prediction is free. Brazil is it.
Those with software - Bill Gray of Colorado University with computer models on global sea-surface temperatures and atmospheric conditions says seventeen named tropical storms, nine hurricanes and five major, high-wind hurricanes in 2006 - nearly twice the historical average in all categories. The co-founder of "Wired" magazine, John Battelle, says "Google will stumble" due to a bad partnership or a legal setback, and also legislators in the United States and elsewhere will take steps to protect citizens against "the perils of unprotected Internet data mining" into their personal lives, including credit and health histories. Bull.
Then there's Alan Caruba from South Orange, New Jersey with this pro-Bush Republican set of predictions (partly wishful thinking) -
Yeah, well, maybe. Every Republican hopes for that last one.
But some like California, as with celebrity astrologer Susan Miller here, where she says Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are "just heaven. He's a Sagittarius, she's Gemini, and they're just heavenly together. Saturn was just in opposition to his four planets in Capricorn, which signified that he wanted kids desperately, and Jennifer Aniston didn't realize how much this meant to him, and she delayed having children as she nurtured her career. Angelina provides him with the children he so badly wants. They will make the most amazing family."
And she says Angelina Jolie will eventually stop acting and focus on her work as a goodwill ambassador - "She has Cancer rising which means she values home and family more than anything else. Although the media portray her as a home wrecker, she's really not. She is devoted to the idea of family." And she says the planets indicate it would be "especially wise" for Pitt and Jolie to marry in June.
That's nice. They're pretty people. But as for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes - "I cannot understand this relationship. There are no links in their chart, no passion. I don't know how it happened. There are pressure points that will come up. She's Sagittarius, he's Cancer ... Sagittarius usually hurts Cancer's feelings by being too direct. The birth of their baby, sadly, could add further stress to their relationship."
As for less important matters, note this:
Those of us who are Gemini are now a tad more relaxed.
Nick Clooney in the Cincinnati Post is a bit less serious, with this list, which includes, "American troops will be out of combat in Iraq in time for the fall elections. The president will declare victory to ensure his friends in Congress can obey the 11th Political Commandment; 'Thou Shalt Not Lose Thy Majority.' Cynical, but perhaps right. As is this - "Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, will be offered a cabinet post by President Bush." And this - "Republicans Delay-Frist-Cunningham-Ney-Abramoff will all be convicted of ethical violations. Vice President Cheney will declare they were all secretly Democrats. Fox 'News' will lead with the story."
Here he's just mad as a hatter - "The Reds will win the pennant."
As for political lefties, there's Matthew Yglesias here -
The Miami Heat?
Whatever. Who knows?
As Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) said - Prudens futuri temporis exitum Caliginosa nocte premit dues - "A wise God shrouds the future in obscure darkness."
That famous writer down in Long Beach, Ray Bradbury, had the right idea - "I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it."
But it will be here Sunday.