Saturday, December 24, 2011


“All they do is give out awards in Los Angeles. Greatest Fascist Dictator, Adolf Hitler.”

Woody Allen, from Annie Hall

Hollywood loves to give out awards. The Empathic Rationalist? Not so much. That’s why I only give them out once a year, and even then, I don’t give them much thought.

With that in mind, feel free to read on and reflect a bit about the best – and worst – of 2011. This will be the last post of the year. So let me wish you a Happy Holiday – or if you are a Republican, a “Merry Christmas” – and a Happy New Year.

Person of the Year

Who shot J.R.? Nobody -- it was only a dream.

Who shot Osama? Somebody – but we won’t find out who any time soon.
That man (or is it a woman?) is my person of the year. Anonymous. Uncelebrated. Not particularly well paid. But heroic as hell.

Give Obama credit for authorizing the mission to go well into Pakistan and risk pissing off the Pakistani Government in order to get the madman who murders thousands of innocents for sport. But give our “Person of the Year” even more credit for risking his (or her) life to get that same madman, and actually getting it done. Someday, we’ll find out this person’s name and gender. For now, we’ll just have to say “Thanks, hero!” and leave it at that.

Laughing Stock of the Year

The Empathic Rationalist tends not to give out this award because it would not be very “empathic” to turn someone into a complete object of ridicule. But this year, let us make an exception.

The laughing stock is each and every one of us political junkies who religiously watch the Republican Debates. Why do we do it? For the comedy? Because we’ve discovered a form a self abuse that doesn’t make us go blind or sprain our wrists? You’d think after two or three of these debates, we’d find something else to do with our time. But no – the prospect of hearing grown men (and a Stepford Wife) pander to the most extreme and ignorant elements of our society is apparently irresistible to us. And so we turn on the next debate. And the next. And the next. … And this will probably continue until it’s May, and Mitt Romney is alone on the stage with Rick Perry who forgot that he was only getting 1% of the vote.

So, my fellow political junkies, congratulations – you are all deserving of this award. Maybe if we’re lucky, someone will come up with political methadone this summer, so we won’t have to watch all the Romney-Obama debates. There, the pandering to Neanderthals will be replaced with vapid BS that has nothing to do with how either one intends to govern. As it stands now, however, I expect to watch all of those events as well.

Entertainer of the Year

Jon Stewart. He hosts the only show I can watch without getting bored – other than the news and sports. OK, OK – perhaps his show could be called news. But I prefer to think of it as “comedy,” not news. It just so happens that it is more informative about the news than virtually anything on MSNBC or Fox News (which are essentially mirror images of each other).

I considered giving this award to “Adele” because she’s so freaking talented. Then again, to be totally candid, her sound isn’t really my cup of tea. And besides, I didn’t even know who she was a week ago. So if you really want an informed view of who the Entertainer of the Year is, you should probably consult a forum written by someone who actually enjoys what comes out of Hollywood or Nashville these days. Sadly, when it comes to the entertainment industry, the Empathic Rationalist is still stuck in the 60s and 70s (note, for example, the quote at the top of this blog post).

Athlete of the Year

This is really painful. REALLY painful. But if Empathic Rationalism stands for anything, it’s the unwillingness to lie to oneself. This is why I never became a defense attorney – I was never willing to convince myself that it just so happens that my clients almost never break the law.

So here goes: the athlete of the year is Aaron Rodgers. He once quarterbacked U.C. Berkeley, the arch rival of my beloved Stanford Cardinal. And now, he quarterbacks the Green Bay Packers, the arch rival of my beloved Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers started the year winning one playoff game after another until he finally captured the Super Bowl. Then, after a tumultuous off-season that almost resulted in a football strike, he continued to win games – 13, to be exact, until finally losing last Sunday. It’s pretty darn good in any sport to lose your first game of the year in mid-December.

Rodgers already has an unparalleled touchdown/interception ratio for his career. And he still figures to have several more years left in his prime. The best QB ever? Maybe not. But more and more people are making that claim, and nobody is laughing when they do. Certainly I’m not. I’m crying.

Tragedy of the Year

Earthquake. Tsunami. Nuclear meltdown. That is not a Trifecta anyone ever wants to hear about. And yet it happened this year in Japan, thanks to a quake that measured 8.9 on the Richter scale.

Most of us cannot even imagine how awful such a quake could be. We had one in Washington, DC this year that measured less than a 6.0, and it shook our buildings for several seconds. 8.9? That is truly a nightmare.

Let us be thankful for all the noble souls in Japan who worked long and hard to make sure that the damage to the nuclear reactors was kept to a minimum. At times like that, you can see human beings at our very best … and nature, at her very worst. These events are also a reminder that much of what is written in our Scriptures is not to be taken literally. God, I dare say, doesn’t bury people alive on purpose.

No comments: