Mike Gold: Living In Interesting Times

Let me be the last to wish you a happy new year. Actually you – and my Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind audience – are the first people upon whom I’m bestowing these tidings. I’m writing this on Boxing Day because I’m leaving town for a week. I think I’m going to Chicago, where I shall reflexively ask Barry Crain for Sonic Disruptors pages.

While in the Windy City, I will be meeting up with my ol’ pal and fellow ComicMix columnist John Ostrander, another expatriated Chicagoan. He will be in town along with Mary Mitchell to visit (or annoy, as the case may be) a gaggle of his relatives. We will be doing at least two things together, the first of which is having a profoundly fabulous dinner with also-fellow ComicMix columnist Marc Alan Fishman and the Unshaven Comics crew, and as many wives and children as possible that can tolerate a couple hours of seriously immature behavior.

The other reason John and I are getting together is that a couple months ago we started work on what may very well be the most important comics project of our lives… or, at least, mine. We’re working with a woman who is most certainly one of the most important people I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a lot of important people.

That’s why I’m in comics. The important people usually aren’t (but that’s changing), and variety is the spice of life. But this project combines the two; in fact, it combines just about all my Sybilistic professional personalities – comics, politics, media, and youth social services. Maybe it’ll be my one last parting shot; if so, it’ll be the one of which I’d be proudest.

As Eric Idle famously wrote and sang, “Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true / You’ll see it’s all a show / Keep ’em laughing as you go / Just remember that the last laugh is on you!” Truer words were never sung, particularly from a cross on a movie set in Tunisia.

No, I’m not going to tell you what this one is all about. Not yet. Once everything is nailed down, contracts are signed, and moral non-disclosure agreements are no longer necessary, you bet I’ll babble on. I’ll bet John will, too. And others.

So 2017 promises to be another very interesting year. Yeah, I know, 2016 was very interesting but really, really ugly. If you feel you deserve a better 2017, you merely are part of a horde of approximately 7,361,250,000 Earthlings.

It’s a shame that the “famous Chinese curse” may you live in interesting times is apocryphal. For the record, the phrase “may you live in an interesting age” was first uttered by Frederic R. Coudert in 1939 at the Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science. He attributed it to his friend Sir Austen Chamberlain, brother of the infamous British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who claimed to have heard it from Chinese diplomats a few years earlier. However, Sir Austen didn’t speak Chinese and never went to China, so it is likely his sense of truthiness was as on-target as Sir Neville’s “there will be peace in our time…” uttered right after he gave the Sudetenland to Adolf Hitler a year before the start of World War II.

The “interesting times” version cannot be traced back further than the late 1940s and was brought to the attention of most by Robert Kennedy in 1966, in a speech the Senator made in Cape Town South Africa. Bobby said, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.” Of course, the Chinese curse quote was total bullshit, but we do not know if Bobby Kennedy knew that.

Nonetheless, the sentiment is accurate. May we live in interesting times can be quite a curse.

It is up to us to make certain it is not.

Happy New Year. Try not to fret too much. It scares the horses.