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Fantasy Island
Think of yourself for a moment as a character in a cartoon. Specifically, imagine that you are in that most classic of all cartoon venues…the desert island. Things are actually relatively good on your island. You’re not starving to death, at least. There is one minor problem, however. You’re only entitled to one of anything.

Let me explain. The premise of this exercise is that you are marooned on the island and cut off from the world and all the choices the world offers. Instead of alternatives, you are stuck with a single option in every category. One particular brand of beer, for instance, not an entire liquor store full.

So let’s start there. If you were stranded on a desert island with only one kind of beer to drink, what would it be? In other words, what is your desert island beer?

Choose carefully, though. The selection process might be trickier than it appears. My gut choice might have been Old Rasputin’s Russian Imperial Stout, a rich and thoroughly enjoyable winter brew that I like to rank as my favorite beer. That is not the question here though. Would I really want to drink it every day on a desert island? Wouldn’t a lighter, hoppier IPA serve me better as the only beer I would ever be able to drink?

You see the issues, then. Your desert island pick in any category would have to address the possibility that you might get bored with it. If you could only listen to a single piece of music for the rest of your life, then “Night on Bald Mountain” (though entertaining, especially if you chose Fantasia as the only animated cartoon you could watch) might not be ideal no matter how much you liked it. Personally, I’d be tempted to pick some lovers’ reggae tune like Gregory Isaacs’ “Cool Down the Pace.” It’s simple and sweet and fully grooved. That would wear well. Or Marley’s “Small Axe” to sustain my resolve and help cure the loneliness. Still, it would be great to have a horn section. No matter what, even the sunniest island music would get old after a while…but also easier to come back to.

How about your favorite artwork, then? What would you want hang on the coconut tree so that you could gaze at it every day? Money is no object, nor is size or medium. And don’t worry about the weather ruining it or any such practical problems. As with all our categories, just assume that the thing will always be in its most pristine and desirable state, ready to consume or view or read.

Which raises the question: what is your desert island book? Something you could stand to read over and over and over? I’d be tempted by the Oxford English Dictionary myself. You’d probably die before you even got to zyxomma (a dragonfly native to India), so the repetitiveness wouldn’t be a problem. The plot line is a bit slow, but if you were ever rescued, just imagine your mastery of Scrabble.

And on it goes. Your desert island fruit? Apple, banana, pluot? Goji berries?Think carefully; you’ll be eating it every day. TV program? May I suggest something with a lot of episodes in the can? Max Headroom and Stranger Things both had some fresh appeal, but if you’re talking about watching them forever, the glaze would be off the donut before too long. And no, I’m not going to recommend General Hospital in spite of its record of 13,700-plus installments.

Which movie? The Wizard of Oz, Apocalypse Now, The Big Lebowski? Plan 9 from Outer Space? Jar-Jar Binks outtakes? Happy endings are optional, of course, but you don’t want to get your dauber down out there.

And what about a game? Even the pluckiest cartoon character, despite all this fine food and these modern diversions, would have have some bouts with crushing boredom. Just remember, though, you won’t have anyone to play with. It’s just you. Please allow me to suggest that you could do worse than the Desert Island Game (which we are currently playing) as your desert island game.
Whether Permitting
It is not my habit to make New Year’s predictions, but I’m thinking of making it one. To that end, I am declaring 2017 as the Year of Do It Yourself. I hereby forecast that the DIY spirit will reign over almost every facet of our lives this year.

Especially politics. Whatever you say about Drump (“hornswoggler” was recently added to the list of options, along with “feculent”), you have to credit him with being the ultimate DIY candidate. Like any good do-it-yourselfer, he didn’t follow the instructions. And yet he got elected! All that remains is for his project to fail horribly (not that I’m rooting for that, understand, unless he’s standing under it when it collapses). Now that he’s done it, anyone who’s willing to spew the stupid and cruel can be President.

In the world of journalism we’re already halfway there on DIY news. Now we can eliminate “reporters” and just make it up ourselves. If you’re a newcomer, here’s the technique: think of something you want to have happen, then imagine an “event” or set of “facts” that would make it more likely. Write about your imaginary reality on Facebook. It goes viral, and that’s it — you’re writing the first draft of history!

Speaking of alternate realities, why not just live in one all by yourself? New advances in virtual reality have put us on the cusp of living endlessly exciting and fulfilling lives without any of the risk or expense. While it is true that actual reality itself is kind of a DIY opportunity, why should we have to settle for some grinding, humdrum existence when we can go anywhere, be anybody, and kill anyone we want over and over again? It’s a life ripe for the living — as long as Mom keeps supplying the pepperoni pizza and Mountain Dew.

Our new digital world, in fact, makes DIY possibilities of all kinds more likely. Want your own air force? Buy a drone. Now buy another one. Keep it up, and pretty soon your neighbor won’t dare park his big, stupid SUV in front of your house.

While the DIY theme will dominate the year, it should be noted that a strong countervailing trend will also continue. Let’s call it the Don’t Do It Yourself craze. DDIY is also driven by technology, mostly of the robotic variety. Self-motivating vacuum cleaners and self-driving cars will soon be followed by self-shooting guns and self-taking selfies.

The new DIY journalism we mentioned will be nicely complemented by the DDIY fad. Consumers of news will not check their sources even more in 2017 and continue not exercising common sense nor using simple powers of deduction. Heavy reliance will be placed on stories that are self-fact-checked and self-skepticized.

In a final example of a paradox, wrapped in an irony, sweater-vested in an incongruity, we will see “reality” TV be converted to 100% CGI using the latest in motion-capture systems. Those systems will be fitted to robots that have been programmed to move more realistically than real people. The result: we won’t have to witness the dehumanizing effects of these shows on actual humans. Maybe we can get somebody else to watch this stuff, too.

I am tempted to make a projection, based on all these trends, regarding the future of humanity itself, but I’ll have to get back to you on that. I haven’t decided yet whether to DIM or DDIM.
Elective President-Electomy
Okay, that didn't work. I hadn’t done a caricature of Drump since late May because I didn’t want to go on feeding the ego beast. At the time it seemed to me that withholding attention from him was one of the few weapons I had in the battle against the tsunami of stupidity and celebrity worship that has now consumed our nation. I had hoped that focusing on issues rather than personalities would clarify the situation for anyone who might be paying attention. But no; the tactic failed, and here we all are.

Back then I was even doubting the power of satire itself. All the brightest, funniest, most insightful satirists had lined up and done some of their best work against Drump, and he still won.

But I am in a different place now, and as of this week I have once again taken up caricature as a tool of my trade. The election has changed things, including my view of the president-elect. He’s a disease. Henceforth I will treat him as a boil needing to be lanced, a cancer begging for radical chemo, a malignant growth that must be surgically removed. I don’t know that my humble pen is that sharp and deft, but I have to try.

I will portray him as bloated, corrupt, and reeking of evil and bad cologne. A shallow, mendacious fool, utterly callous to the needs of his (or any) people. Yes, I will be descending into the dark waters of character assassination. In my defense, I can only say that my depictions will be 100% factually accurate.

Maybe this tactic won’t work either, but I can’t help thinking that drawing is better than not drawing. When you’re dealing with a deadly disease, no medicine is too strong.
Good Grief
After the last election, I waited for myself to move through the five stages of grief. I was looking forward to a time when I could feel good again, or at least normal. Now, however, I have concluded that this process will not take place. I have reached the last stage, acceptance, and begun my new life under this ugly set of circumstances, but I have not left any of the other stages behind. Nor do I want to.

Furthermore, I don’t want to feel normal. The denial, anger, bargaining, and depression are still with me, but I have no complaints. I find the denial and anger quite handy in maintaining my rejection of Drump’s legitimacy. He isn’t a real president. He’s a creature from the dark side. I won’t be “giving him a chance” or hoping for something good to happen or fantasizing that the office will humble him or any of that crap. He is a Sith Lord. There is no middle ground. Any real good that comes from his reign will be strictly our dumb luck.

The bargaining phase of my grief presents a slightly different case. I’m actually enjoying that part. I relished Jill Stein’s pathetic recount efforts. I cheer on the hopeless quest to rig the Electoral College and change the outcome. I am happy to see others clinging to the idea that Russian hacking will somehow outrage our leaders enough that they vote for impeachment. I even allow myself to entertain the notion that some states might actually secede from the union. None of this bargaining is going to accomplish much, but it all perpetuates the drumbeat of stories that reaffirm Drump’s illegitimacy — and it clearly irritates the hell out of him. That’s the fun part, and that definitely helps with the depression phase of my grief.

The acceptance I’m experiencing is not an acceptance of Drump himself. No, no, no. That I will never do. My acceptance is of my new role: resisting him at every turn. I will not say a kind word about him. I may end up working parallel to him on some issues, but never with him. I don’t even want to say his name. I just want him to be ground into a paste by the gears of history and be force fed to his nightcrawling enablers. That is a role I can get behind.

If you think that my attitude will only worsen the deep divisions in our country, you are right. In fact, I’m counting on it. If ever there was a time for clear lines and complete separation, this is it.

I read a piece recently by the Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein that projected a near future in which the fortunes of red states plummeted while the quality of life in the blue ones soared. It would work this way: Once the deep cuts in taxes that Drump promises take effect, the rich people (who live mostly in blue states) will have lots of spare cash. If the blue states are as smart as they claim to be, they’ll raise state taxes on those folks and use that money to make themselves into blue paradises where we take care of one another and corporate greed cannot run rampant over ordinary citizens.

The red states, meanwhile, will descend into penury and poor health. Without that fat wad of federal tax dollars (the lion’s share of which used to go to them, not to their blue cousins) they will need to depend on the good will of corporations, the charity of the obscenely rich, and the bounty generated by supply side economics. Good luck with that, cousins.

I don’t wish these people ill, but they will be reaping what they have sown. Moreover, there’s not much I can do to help them short of making charitable donations. I will choose to focus on my side of the great chasm between red and blue. In fact, I propose that we go Mr. Pearlstein one better by dusting off Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution and really getting down to business.

In case you don’t know, that’s the clause that deals with interstate compacts. Ordinarily these agreements concern themselves with geographical commonalities between states and the standardization of statutory language, but I see no reason not to expand their scope. Does the prospect of a west coast single payer health care system ring your bell? How about mandating electric cars west of the Rockies or east of the Appalachians?

Both great ideas, if you ask me, and unlike the kooky dream of secession, they could actually happen. Once the red states got it through their thick skulls that the blue states were onto something, I think they’d want to join us in our blue state paradises. The rifts would heal, and America would be whole again.

In the meantime, buckle up, keep the grief alive, and hold strong against the Sith Lord.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee