The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The new year

This will be about the only time, for a while, that you will see a post that is neither about Chris Christie nor about “Obamacare.” But I got to thinking about how New Year's Eve and New Year's Day have changed over the years for me, and I thought I'd share my memories and recollections with my readers.

In the family in which I grew up, we had a New Year's tradition which might seem very calm and subdued to most of you, but year after year we did the same thing. We gathered around the radio, with potato chips and/or other snack foods, and listened to Guy Lombardo, who every year did a New Year's program from some hotel, I think always in midtown Manhattan. The Big Band era was over — this was the early 1950s — but Lombardo still had his band, and its theme was “Auld Lang Syne” (which raises a chicken/egg question: did Lombardo choose “Auld Lang Syne” because he liked to play New Year's Eve parties? Or had he adopted “Auld Lang Syne” as his theme, and because of that he was popular as a New Year's act?). There was always some station that carried Lombardo, and we'd listen to him. The before-midnight part of the show featured a song from each year (Starting when? I don't recall.) ending up with a prediction of a likely big hit for the coming year (which never came true — I never recall hearing his predicted big hit of the coming year again after that night!) Always, of course, there was a countdown to the new year at midnight, with “Auld Lang Syne” the first song played after everyone shouted “Happy New Year!” Every year it was the same. It wasn't always the same hotel, but it was the same program. Eventually, Lombardo migrated to television, and the midnight countdown was not in his hotel, but at Times Square, where the famous ball drop took place on camera. (For a while, he did a simulcast, and we continued listening on the radio.) At home, we had champagne — for all except my father, who was a recovering alcoholic, but yes, including me and my brother, as it was not considered criminal to offer wine to kids in a family setting! Glasses were clinked together, and “Happy New Year!” was shouted by us in synchrony with the radio.

A little departure from discussions of New Year's party tradition is in order. In the 1960s I got into a certain circle of friends. One was a fellow I'd actually known since we were both in high school in the late 1950s (and still count as a friend); the others were people who shared some common interests with both of us. One of the others had put on, at his home, a summer party (a Fourth of July party? I can't recall for certain) which I attended, (and discovered that another friend, though nine years younger than I was, knew my favorite music and liked it, which made a strong bond between us). Apparently someone liked the format of the party, which included a prepared tape with an eclectic variety of songs on it, and my circle of friends started a tradition of New Year's parties structured after this summer party; I could not, at first, attend those, because I felt loyalty to my own family tradition.

But my father passed away in 1966, and my brother moved to California, and a New Year's party that consisted of just my mother and me didn't seem right; eventually I got to join my friends' party. The group developed its own traditions: eventually the audiotapes were replaced by videotapes, but since an audiotape held less material than a videotape, pauses were built into the videotape, corresponding to the interval when the audiotape had to be changed on the machine in previous parties! I moved out of New York to the Washington, D. C. area, but tried to make it back “home” to New York around New Year's Day so I could attend the party.

This ceased for me about 15 years ago — I had a life crisis that made coming to New York impossible. Shortly afterward, the man who had become the music selector for the parties (the same nine-years-younger-than-me person I'd mentioned earlier) died at a premature age of 49. And various other people, for different reasons, dropped out of the circle of friends, so the New Year's parties ceased, and even if I had been able to get up to New York, there would have been no party to go to.

In recent years, I have not done anything special at the turn of the year — staying up to midnight was something I did only because that was when the action was, so now, with no party to go to, I'm normally fast asleep in bed at “the moment.” But I still have happy memories of past New Years.

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