2016 is over and the new year is upon us. I feel like I've aged more than 12 months since this time last year, but that may be the chili I had for lunch. My thoughts and reflections on this past year:
La vie (et la mort) avec des chats
The biggest change in my life in 2016 was the loss of my beloved cat Grendel in September. The sharp pain of those six terrible weeks between his diagnosis with cancer and his death has given way to a dull ache that lingers and may well linger indefinitely. I can't help thinking about that line from the song Mr. Bojangles, "after twenty years he still grieves." Does time heal all wounds? Maybe not in this life. I had such a special relationship with that fat, obstreperous little man that the absence, the nullity of him is palpable.
I think that our relationship with our pets restores, to some degree, the natural order of creation. We were meant to be in harmony with our environment, not at war. That we can create such a bond with our critters now is some foretaste of the restoration to come:
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,The girls go on. Maebh is still crazy; Rhiannon is still fussy; both are still adorable. Rhiannon is soon to be 16 and Maebh is going on 13, two little old ladies. They're a bit like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I expect Maebh to push Rhiannon down the stairs any day.
and he shall dwell with them,
And they shall be his peoples,
And God himself shall be with them—their God.
And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more;
nor mourning nor crying nor pain—they shall be no more.
The first things have passed away.
And he who sits upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
The new cat, Bogart, is a much-loved (by me) addition to the home, even though his full admission to the tribe has hit many a snag. I was too sanguine that he would fit in quickly. There were a few problems at first, Maebh wouldn't stop hissing and growling at him, but there were also signs that things might settle down. That optimism pretty much went south after Bogart chased Maebh through the house while she shrieked and yowled. She came out just a bit ruffled, he suffered a nasty bite on his left foreleg that required a second trip to the vet for cleaning and dressing. (He had an abscess on his shoulder from another Maebh bite just a month earlier.) I keep fearing for the girls in these encounters, but it's always Bogart going to the vet.
For now I'm keeping the girls and Bogart separate. My den, which I envisioned as a temporary quarantine, is now Bogie's semi-permanent home. I manage a kind of time-share where I lock the girls in my bedroom and let Bogart have the run of the house and then put him back in the den and let the girls roam free. It's not ideal. He spends by far the most time in his room, though I do a lot of stuff in there, like my painting and 'putering, so I manage to spend time with him wherever he is.
I have to admit, however, that I'm a bit perplexed how to resolve settling him in. He's too enthusiastic about wanting to be with his "girlfriends" who want nothing to do with him. He presses, they run, he chases, hijinx ensue—along with cat-bites and puss-oozing abscesses.
Having perfected the art of the dip, I started out last year with many a high hope for painting projects. I managed to get a lot done earlier in the year and was set up to get a lot more done when Grendel's death and Bogie's arrival took a lot of the wind out of that sail. The current irons in the fire, in no particular order, are:
- Aztecas y conquistadores: This is the Queztalcoatl Rampant project Kevin Smyth and I have been working on. I have a surprising number of figures painted for it, though unsurprisingly many fewer than Kevin has. I'm nearly done with my conquistadors, but I have a lot of Tlaxcalans and then Aztecs to paint. I just ordered a few more conquistadors and a lot more Tlaxcalans. The Mesoamericanos paint pretty quickly, even the more elaborate ones have a simple color scheme. I ordered several more Tlaxcalans from The Assault Group. I'd meant to order more Aztec slingers, too, but forgot. However, just yesterday, Jerry Tyer handed me a bag of 24 Assualt Group Aztecs he's had sitting around for years, including eight slingers. Joy! More material possessions!
- Lion Rampant: Earlier in the year I got excited about painting a 28mm Medieval Spanish army for Lion Rampant. I was going to debut it at a small Lion Rampant tournament that was held in Gig Harbor, WA in September. I managed to get a lot done, but then the project stalled with Grendel's sickness and death. I'm just now getting back to them. I also have a large number of later Medieval figures from Old Glory's Hundred Years War range. These have been kicking around half painted for well over 10 years. I hope to squeeze out a few Lion Rampant retinues from these.
- Beyond the Gates of Antares: This project is a going concern and yielding its fruit in season. I recently completed some long-stalled additions, which include my first vehicles and a heavy weapon with extra crew. I'm well along with some more recent additions. This is something we play regularly, so I expect to get a lot of mileage out of what I have and add to it as new releases come. All my figures are Algoryns and I'm tempted to branch out. We'll see.
- 30 Years War: After my initial output at the beginning of the year, I started many more (and ordered many more) figures. Things paint faster with the dip, but like Thursday's child, I have far to go. We're planning a game of Pike & Shotte for Drumbeat in February, but I'm not confident I'll have any units completed by then.
- 1672: This project is still prominently on the back burner. I'm excited by the possibility. The uniforms (and they are uniform, unlike the motley of everything else I'm currently painting) are simple and the quick block painting used in the dip may result in several units painted quickly, whenever I get back to them.
- English Civil War: I have a lot of pikes and muskets going on. I've been working on some of the beautiful—and big—ECW figures from Renegade (who have now resumed binness) and Bicorne. My plans are to use these for the soon to be released Pikeman's Lament rules from Dan Mersey/Osprey. I have some English and Scots in the works. These are also mostly uniform, so painting should go quicker than with the 30 Years War, etc.
- WW2: This is pretty dormant right now, but I have several Italian troops for North Africa to paint to complete a platoon-sized unit, plus a few Italian tanks. I also have some British tanks for North Africa to complete. I have a lot of Crusader Russians that I picked up cheap at Enfilade! a few years ago. I keep meaning to get to them. So far, I have no Germans. I expect to remedy that at some future date. What keeps me from getting more done is that we're not playing Bolt Action much.
The point of politics is to upset people, or so it seems. I try to avoid the topic, but it dominated so much of 2016 that I feel the need to make a few upsetting comments.
I'm no fan of The Donald, but I have to admit to feeling ecstatic when Hillary lost. If schadenfreude is a mortal sin, I am doomed to hell-fire. (However, cf. Aquinas Summa Theologicae Supplement 94.3 "I answer that...the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.") And the schadenfreude only got worse as the post-election days ticked by and Team Hillary kept melting down publicly in increasingly hilarious ways.
Then there were the pathetic attempts to overturn the election.
Jill Stein acted as Hillary's stalking horse to demand recounts in the three key states that turned the election (because, you know, it would be unseemly for Hillary to demand recounts after all the time she spent hectoring Trump about whether he'd accept the election outcome). Judges shut down the recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Trump actually gained votes in Wisconsin. Oops. But it gets better.
Other stalking horses fulsomely encouraged (or violently threatened) Trump electors to vote faithlessly. They even tried to get Hillary electors to be faithless in order to pave the way for faithless Trump electors. In the end, Trump lost two electors in Texas, one to Ron Paul and another to John Kasich. Hillary, however, lost five—four of them from my home state of Washington. Three of those four faithless Washington electors voted for Colin Powell, who didn't run, but took third place anyway. One Hillary elector from Hawaii voted for Bernie, so at least he got a bit of his own back after having the nomination stolen from him. Three other Hillary electors tried to defect but were either forced to recant or had their faithless votes invalidated and recast by a faithful alternate. The end result of trying to use the electoral college to overturn the election was even more schadenfreude inducing than the botched recount: Trump 304, Hillary 227 (or 224, if we go by intentions).
Of course, the outraged cry has gone 'round the land (yet again) to abolish the electoral college, which would require a constitutional amendment unless the Democrats can find a judge who will rule the Constitution unconstitutional (don't laugh, that's not at all improbable). Of course, the urge of the outraged to abolish Article II is more urgent in light of the fact that Hillary won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. But the electoral college was designed specifically to give every state a say in presidential elections proportional to their representation in Congress, and no more, so as to disallow a few very populous regions to dominate the whole country. Hillary won California (my former, and formerly deep-red, home state) by 6 million votes. There are a lot of people in California. But even if Hillary won the vote of every single Californian, she only gets 55 electoral votes, the same number she'd get if she won California by only a single vote. California may really, really love Hillary, but it doesn't get to decide presidential elections on its own. That's especially meaningful since states have a lot of leeway in deciding how their elections are held. California has effectively banned the Republican party (much like Mississippi, South Carolina, et al. in 1860). The election for US senator from California was between one Democrat and another Democrat. Some Californians are agitating for secession. Well, adios. It means that 55 electoral votes and all those popular votes won't go to Democrats in US elections any more. California is one of the wealthiest states in the US, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that as a separate country, the People's Republic of California would give Venezuela a run for its money on the misery index. But I digress...
The ramifications of 2016 will go on and on. I don't know what to expect from a Trump presidency, though it will certainly be less dire than the Democrats are shrieking (most things are) and less glorious than the Trumpkins promise. My overall feeling for the state of things would be pessimistic whether Hillary or The Donald won, but that's grist for another mill. For now, I'll deal with what has come, i.e., our absurd orange overlord and the musical caterwauling of the left at everything he says and does.
The Democrats, who spent the eight years of the Bush administration being obstructionists and the eight years of the Obama administration decrying the evil of obstructionism, will return again to being obstructionists and declare it good. Republicans will, of course, bemoan the Democrats' obstruction (though, to be fair, many despise Trump enough that they might become co-obstructionists thus creating a new bipartisanship). Trump will try to rule by fiat (i.e., executive orders) as Obama did, only to be denounced as a tyrant, as Obama was. It seems that we've gone from government of the people, by the people, for the people to government by tit for tat.
There won't be enough nails to shut Hillary's political coffin. Without serious intervention from friends (assuming she has any who aren't sycophants) she'll undoubtedly try to run again in 2020. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Hillary's not dead yet—and even then, there's enough toxic ambition in her system to animate her corpse until the smell becomes unbearable (worse even than boiled cabbage, urine, and farts). The sad reality at this point is that there isn't anyone on the Democratic bench that has the stature (or lacks the baggage) to make a serious run in 2020. If they don't run Hillary again, even though she's well past her sell-by date and loaded with baggage, who will they run? Maybe a retread of a different sort...
Obama, having now declared himself the winner of a (delusional) third term, may spend his time out of office orchestrating a repeal of the 22 Amendment (or finding a judge who will declare the Constitution unconstitutional), which would let him run again. He's young enough to still be around if or when a repeal happens and he certainly has the ambition and narcissistic self-regard to imagine himself yet again his country's new (or renewed) hope: Messiah 2.0, rested and ready to save our souls once again.
Whatever happens, 2017 and beyond promises to be an interesting mélange of political hurly-burly, angst, and, yes, schadenfreude—and squalor, lots of squalor. It should be entertaining. I can hardly wait.
Apparently everybody who was anybody died in 2016. The Grim Reaper's harvest of exceptional souls seemed especially rich this past year. The quite unexpected back-to-back deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were the most poignant. Requiescat in pacem.
Celebrity deaths hold a fascination for us. Maybe it's because they're celebrities or maybe it's because death is that one leveler that puts the uncommon and the common on par. Some seemed to have lived wonderful lives, but others seemed to have lived a horror of addiction, mental illness, dysfunction, etc., much of which was unknown—or only vaguely known—while they lived. In reviewing the lives of the rich and famous, we gain a whole new appreciation for the simplicity and obscurity of our own (at least I do).
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free," wrote St. Paul. But we do so poorly with freedom, squandering it mostly on ambition, the pursuit of wealth, and the satisfaction of our base desires. Every year's crop of celebrity dead brings home that truth and underscores the fragility of our lives and the transitoriness of all our achievements great and humble. And so, in saying goodbye to 2016 and greeting 2017, it's only appropriate to end with this timeless quote from the Bard:
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,