Epiphany 2022

Things I’ve learned about people during 2021 that will come in handy in 2022.

Today, January 6, 2022, is the feast of Epiphany in the Western Christian calendar, but in the Orthodox Eastern calendar, it’s actually Christmas Eve. And if you’ve ever wondered where The Twelve Days of Christmas came from, this is it.

January 6 is twelve days after the preceding December 25, or Christmas. So the 12 days idea makes sense as either a countdown from (western) Christmas to Epiphany or from the Nativity and the Magi giving gifts to (eastern) Christmas.

Or something like that. It’s all kind of confused. The salient point here, though, is that “Epiphany,” in its non-religious sense, means “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”

The last two years, from March 2020 through December 2021, were full of epiphanies large and small, especially as a lot of us wound up in isolation, only really communicating through social media and video conferences.

Here are some of the epiphanies I had — some personal, some general.

  1. I could get used to this, really.

At the very beginning, it meant that I got to stay home with my dog, not deal with the daily commute, and focus on my own stuff. Of course, it got more difficult after my dog died on May 1st, leaving me totally alone.

I managed to survive on unemployment until August, when I went back to my former job working remotely from home — which meant that I had to install actual high-speed internet and WiFi, but this tuned out to be a good thing. And yes, like a lot of people, I found out that I had been making more on unemployment than with my very underpaid day job.

In late September, we had to go back to the office to work in person — operations there are still kind of trapped in the 80s, with way too much on paper and hardly anything digitized. Beginning in December, right after the rush at the office ended, I picked up a freelance and totally remote gig on the side, which quickly turned into an offer of full-time remote work.

I gave notice at the old job in mid-February, started the new job on March 1st at the salary I had asked for — and, note, it was a hell of a lot more than I had been making — and so it’s been work at home ever sense.

Except for those couple of moments when it looked like it was safe to come out, I’ve mostly stayed at home except to go to the grocery store, always masked outside of the house, and I got my first two vaccine shots in April and May. I haven’t managed to get the booster yet, more because it’s not as available than anything else.

But I’m in no rush to leave this cocoon at all. Honestly, except for a dog, everything I need is here. I’ve also long been debating leaving L.A., simplifying, and moving into a smaller but cheaper place outside of the city. I really only need a good internet connection, a nice view, and, ideally, a small house with a backyard (for dog) and pool (for me.)

  1. The people who get it really, really get it

Oddly enough, most of my friends are creative types — actors, writers, directors, dancers, singers, artists, and so on. And, without fail, 99% of them got it from the beginning. They were the first to mask up, wash their hands constantly, social distance, and advise others to do so.

And it wasn’t easy. I spent a few months out of work from a muggle job but at least was able to keep on writing on my own. Others, not so much. As theatre and live events shut down, they were all put out of work. But did they bitch about it and start blaming the government, from local to state to federal?

Nope. They understood the seriousness of the situation and did what they had to do. In fact, during the down time, one amazing friend, Jon Lawrence Rivera, learned how to make Filipino food, like his mother used to do. What he soon learned, though, was that Filipino cooking took place on a huge extended family size scale, so there was always way too much leftover.

He put out a simple message to his friends online: “I have extra food. Who wants some?”

It soon ballooned as he found himself providing food to out-of-work artists who desperately needed it while also being the beneficiary of those who could afford to bringing him the ingredients, tools, and take-out containers he needed to cook. Thus was born Flip Kitchen.

And Jon was far from the only person to turn their idle time into charitable acts. I had friends with crafting or sewing skills turn to cranking out masks by the dozens in the early days when they were scarce, as well as making plastic flip-down face shields.

Also, as soon as they figured out how, people in the community began to get together again virtually, doing play-readings, semi-staged performances and the like, as well as just holding company meetings on a regular basis for moral support.

I had at least four readings of my own work during this time, including Part 1 and Part 2 of my epic play Strange Fruit, as well as a monologue in The Voices of Afghanistan project based on authentic narratives from people who were forced to flee that country and cast entirely with actors who were either native Afghans (and recent escapees) or Afghan-Americans.

The surprise bonus to all of this was that my audience was suddenly a lot bigger than one theater in Los Angeles. The whole thing really felt like what it must have felt like near the beginning of the Great Depression, when FDR used his Works Progress Administration (WPA) to foster artists and keep them creating. Except that, this time, we’re mostly doing it for ourselves — because Republicans won’t let the government do it for us. Speaking of which…

  1. The people who don’t get it are really, really clueless

It’s probably no surprise that this group of people tend to be muggles — i.e. the non-creative types, and thanks to the insurance agent day job I had, I got plenty of chances to interact with them. They were mostly West Valley business types — realtors, bankers, lawyers, plumbers, contractors, and whatever assorted whatnot.

What this generally meant, 99.95% of the time, was that none of them really had a creative bone in their bodies. A friend of mine who crosses into that group via his work with his wife as a marketing guru regularly inadvertently confirms this.

Now, my friend and his wife are creative geniuses as well, and not at all muggles. But one of the things he regularly does is to post a question on Facebook, which can range from “Fill in the blank” to “If… would you” to questions about best movie, musical group, etc., to caption contests.

And, inevitably, a few consistent things happen among the muggles but not the creatives. Although the “Fill in the blanks” are supposed to be one answer per person, there are a couple of guys who jump in at the top and will rattle off three to five answers — usually the most obvious options — and I think they’re both lawyers.

Another rule is this one: “Don’t repeat a previous answer.” How many people do you think check? Yep. Not a lot, apparently.

But the ones that really separate the creative from the muggles are the caption contests. The answers to these will range from the random to the non-sequitur to someone just commenting on the photo rather than trying to caption it.

Basically, these people seem to be the ones who do not know how to (or even attempt to) read the instructions first.

This is the benign version of the people who don’t get COVID or the necessary precautions. They are the assholes who wear their masks below their noses in enclosed public spaces, don’t get vaccinated, stand too close in line at the store, rush out immediately to the nearest public event just because they can, and so on.

At their worst, they will mock people who take precautions for “living in fear,” and blame everyone else for having to stay home and live on unemployment until things return to normal.

Except… they don’t return to normal while we have the deniers around, or the ones too stupid or arrogant to read the instructions first.

  1. Some people are perpetually needy

You probably have these folk in your social media, too, but their posts center around one theme: “My life sucks and it’s not my fault!” In some rare cases, this is actually true. Victims of domestic abuse, those with chronic illnesses or diseases, children abused or abandoned by their parents/caregivers, or refugees forced to flee their homelands all come to mind.

These people are allowed to complain and seek help on social media when and however they need to.

But then there the ones who are just ongoing victims of their own poor choices, like a couple with no marketable job skills who run off together at 18 and proceed to have one baby after another until they’re constantly asking everyone for help with everything. This isn’t the only cause of this sort of thing — I’ve seen childless couples who married late do it, although they tend to be constantly begging for stuff — does anyone have a sofa they no longer need and want to give away, does anyone have an extra TV, and so on.

Probably must infuriating are the parents that always seem to be posting about family trips and vacations, home improvement projects, or investments in things that really only seem like hobbies — and then, every other month, it’s GoFundMe time because their car’s transmission went out or their washing machine blew up, or part of the ceiling fell in.

These are also the people subject to vague-booking: “So that happened. Dammit.” “That was $750 I didn’t need /s” or “The landlord said it’s not their job to fix it.” These always come across as blatant please to get friends to enter with sympathy (“Oh no, honey, what happened?”) and then gradually draw out the story, but only in a manner that paints the OP in the most sympathetic light.

Now, these people have always been around, but they’ve just become a lot more obvious in the last year or two. Gee, wonder why? I can think of at least half a dozen that are constantly clogging up my feed with this shit, although I’ve taken mostly to ignoring them. Sometimes, when it gets really heinous, I’ll put them on mute for a month. But I’ve decided that there’s no need to engage anymore.

  1. Suddenly, everyone is an expert

This probably requires no explanation in the post-COVID world, as so many people go to YouTube University and are suddenly epidemiologists. But it goes beyond that one and can be particularly fun to shoot down when someone starts to opine in some area I’m very familiar with.

People have particularly naïve and wrong ideas about what it’s like behind the scenes on film and TV, for example, and can spout off with some bullshit explanation about why Actor A is an asshole because they did thing X on the set for movie Z to Actor B, of course taking whichever side the celebrity gossip mag pitched as the “hero” in the headline. And yes, the whole Rust shooting incident brought people out of the woodwork by the ton, all of them suddenly arms experts convinced that Alec Baldwin was absolutely guilty of murder.

Proving that none of them has any idea of how a film set is supposed to work in cases like this and, when it breaks down, why it’s not the actor’s fault. The actor isn’t supposed to have to worry about this shit because there’s a team of professionals taking care of it. Except when they aren’t.

So those were some of my epiphanies from 2021. What are yours? Tell us in the comments!

This piece not to be confused with Epiphany from January 2020.

A look backward at 2021

2021 wasn’t all bad news. Here are month-by-month highlights of some good things that happened.

Welcome to 2022, and whatever it may have in store for us. Last year was certainly a rollercoaster, but to help purge it from our collective palates, I thought I’d do a quick rundown of good things that happened during the year.

January 2021

On the 13th, there was a breakthrough in transplantation technology at Édouard Herriot Hospital in Lyon, France. Here, surgeons transplanted not only both arms, but the shoulders as well, to an Icelandic patient. This is what single-payer healthcare can get you.

Additionally, one week later, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States after a period of unrest and insurrection attempting to overthrow that election.

February 2021

On the 18th, NASA’s Mars 2020 expedition lands at Jezero Crater after a seven-month journey from Earth. It carries the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter drone. The latter is the first craft designed to fly autonomously on another planet, but no one knows whether it will work.

March 2021

Pope Francis and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani meet in Najaf, Iraq on March 6. It is the first such meeting ever between a sitting pope and a grand ayatollah.

By March 25, the number of COVID-19 vaccines given world-wide exceeds 500 million.

April 2021

April 11, Peru holds their general election. The winner is Pedro Castillo and the left-wing Free Peru party, moving them away from a more conservative government.

Having been there since February, on April 19th, the Ingenuity drone on Mars takes off and performs the first powered flight on another planet in history.

May 2021

On May 14, the Zhurong rover lands at Utopia Planitia on Mars. This makes China the fourth country in history to put a craft on Mars, as well as only the second country to deliver a rover, after the U.S.

On the 21st, a cease-fire goes into effect to end a conflict between Israel and Gaza.

June 2021

On the 5th, the G7 agrees to impose a minimum 15% corporate tax rate to prevent tax avoidance by some of the world’s biggest multi-nationals.

During the month in space, Juno performs its first and only flyby of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the first in over 20 years; there’s an annular solar eclipse on the 10 visible mostly in the far northern hemisphere; and on the 17th, China launches its first three astronauts to occupy the country’s first space station, the Tiangong Space Station.

July 2021

On the 19th, Blue Origin launches billionaire Jeff Bezos to an altitude of 66 miles (107 km), just barely touching space.

On the 28th, science outdoes this by directly observing the first light to be coming from behind a black hole, having been lensed around it by gravity.

August 2021

The 2020 Summer Olympics happen. Sort of. Although they don’t get a lot of notice.

September 2021

On the 7th, El Salvador becomes the first country to accept Bitcoin as official currency — if you want to consider that a good thing. Otherwise, nothing really good happened this month.

October 2021

On the 3rd, the Pandora Papers are published, revealing the offshore financial dealings of various current and former world leaders and multinational companies.

October 16, NASA launches Lucy, the first spacecraft designed to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which could reveal major information about the formation of our solar system.

November 2021

On the 24th, NASA launches the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to see whether it is possible, with warning and enough time, to deflect a dangerous asteroid to miss the Earth. A probe is scheduled to crash into an asteroid in September 2022.

December 2021

On Christmas Day, NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency jointly launch the James Webb Space telescope. Once its in place and begins returning images in about six months, we are going to see and learn more about our universe than we ever have before.

So 2021 wasn’t all bad, and maybe 2022 will start to bring us more good news than awful. We’ll see. But welcome to today, and Happy New Year 2022!

New Year’s Countdown, December 27

New Year’s Countdown: Happy birthday Marlene Dietrich, who here serenades David Bowie with the song Just a Gigolo.

T Minus 5

On this day in 1901, Marlene Dietrich was born in Berlin and lived into her 90s, with a career that spanned from when she was 18 and performing in Berlin nightclubs to a long film career in Hollywood.

She was an icon, and made her last feature film in 1979, appearing opposite David Bowie, who was 32 at the time. Its American title is Just a Gigolo, and yes, that song does appear in the film and, although the film is set in post-WW I Berlin, the song is not anachronistic, since the story moves along far enough to have the Nazis starting to muck with things.

The original song, entitled Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo, took lyrics written in Austria in 1924 and set them to music in 1928. The English version was written in 1929. Incidentally, the original German-language version was a tango.

In this clip from the film — which was widely panned and which Bowie himself regretted making —Dietrich’s character sings it to Bowie’s after basically humiliating him in front of a roomful of fellow soldiers.

Incidentally, the film was supposed to be a black comedy. I’m guessing that people just didn’t get the joke.

Watch from the beginning, see the previous post, or experience the next.

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