The Year of the Snake

This is the wrap-up for 2013, or for a quarter of the world’s population, the Year of the Snake.

This last post for the year is a bit of a wandering, which I think matches the nature of any particular year—2013 didn’t see the euro vanish, or Southern Europe implode, but it reflected human appetite for war, greed and recklessness from both governments and stockmarkets, particularly in the digital printing of money, continued insanity in the name of religion, and very troubling times in Russia. Tom Clancy died, but his posthumous novel contains some very accurate predictions of what may happen next year in the Ukraine.

Different nations schedule their year end on different dates, but on balance the differences are more astrological than astronomic. In The India Road I argue that in medieval times, and certainly in the XVth century, most people could not distinguish between the two disciplines—astrology is a pseudoscience—I find it impossible to accept a relationship between personality traits and star signs, or compatibility patterns in love or business.

Mostly, calendars are based on religion, and annual periods are defined through some analysis of heavenly bodies—the moon is undoubtedly the most popular, and it’s easy to understand why. Throughout history, light at night was a wonder to behold, and the moon’s effect on tides made it additionally magical for any seafaring people.

If there was ever proof that time is timeless, it’s the fact that we always need to count it from a certain occasion onwards. Technically, we begin life at conception, even though it qualifies as assisted living for about nine months after that. And often as not, assisted living is where we end up, so that begs the simple question: what is life?

Just so we’re clear, I don’t defend pro-life—I love kids, but I believe in a woman’s right to choose. And when it comes to issues such as disabilities or rape, the anti-abortion argument borders on the Neanderthal thought process.

There are however extremely complex moral issues at stake. The draft legislation in Spain that requires a psychiatrist to sign off on a woman’s mental health prior to abortion is spurious nonsense that is causing uproar, but there are a range of other potentially very real concerns.

In general, they fall under the umbrella of eugenics, starting with the possibility of selecting an unborn baby’s sex—a twelve week fetus may be old enough for this diagnosis, but sixteen weeks in more the norm. That still leaves a month and a half prior to the twenty-two week abortion threshold, and you can be in no doubt that it is used on a regular basis in countries like China.

But as genetics evolves, and the pace is fearless, doctors will be able to diagnose much more than what can currently be found with amniocentesis—which already detects hundreds of conditions, including Down’s syndrome, which is the most emblematic, but also Turner’s and Klinefelter’s syndrome (both are sexual disfunctions), cystic fibrosis, and spina bifida.

Read this about Klinefelter and you will be touched. I didn’t know about the testosterone patches, but I did know that Jack Kennedy regularly received testosterone shots, which may account for his compulsive sexual behavior—these days, when everything is a syndrome, from ADD to RLS, he would be diagnosed as addicted to sex.

John Kennedy as a young congressman.

John Kennedy as a young congressman.

Kennedy does appear to have spent most of his presidency completely stoned—have a look at this and judge for yourself. Like other celebrities, he was treated by the legendary Dr. Feelgood—pain is interesting (in the sense of the Chinese curse ‘may you live in interesting times’): when it’s with you, you feel as low as a fox terrier, and when it goes away you can’t remember having it. Kennedy’s own take on the injections he received from the good doctor?

I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works.

Kennedy was a very brave man, someone who is never described as ailing or weak, but who nevertheless was both. Bravery comes in many forms—I first understood that when I was ten years old: there was an earthquake around 3 a.m. that scored 7.8 on the Mercalli scale—that’s kind of like multiple orgasms, the earth really moves.

When I got to school, the class bully, a (then) Rhodesian kid who was double the size of everyone else, was crying like a baby.

I never post a link without triage. While selecting the best clip from the British pub band Dr. Feelgood for your listening pleasure, I was enjoying a quick guitar lesson from Wilco Johnson—there are many guitarrists who play well, but only a few have distinctive styles: Albert King, Hendrix, Chuck Berry, or Santana come to mind—and Wilco.

The almighty may not be the Danish prime minister, but he loves a selfie just like the rest of 'em.

The almighty may not be the Danish prime minister, but he loves a selfie just like the rest of ’em.

In doing so I came across bravery at its best, and most understated form. On that note, and with a smile for the cartoon above, thanks for being with me one more year.

It’s been a joy.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

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One Response to “The Year of the Snake”

  1. Laura Says:

    Hi. 🙂 Perhaps you saw this already, but I figured you might like it:

    http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/636-painted-ships-on-painted-oceans-an-accidental-map-of-the-doldrums

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