Goodbye 2016…and Good Riddance !

[Photo by Heysues23. – Legal use licensed via Dreamstime - December 2016]

[Photo by Heysues23. – Legal use licensed via Dreamstime - December 2016]

I usually like to start off a final blog post of the year with something positive. In the spirit of optimism, I will.

I’m fortunate to be in good health, be gainfully employed, and have a roof over our heads (for me and my kitties, both of which are also in good health).

So, that’s some things that are positive to reflect upon.

However, there’s no sugar coating the fact that 2016 was a terribly crappy year for so many people. It was a year that we suffered the loss of many influential people whose voices we weren’t tired of hearing yet or whose influences are still so badly needed. (More about them further below!)

On a personal level, I was unable to do much creative writing during 2016. Much of this was due to increased job-related stress and a marked increase in extracurricular responsibilities with my daytime career. Ultimately, I feel woefully behind on my Logan Bringer and Sunset Vampire sequels. In addition, I’ve had new ideas percolating but I’ve had little to no time to spare to work on them.

For a country that’s supposedly recovered from a historic recession, I’m gobsmacked by how many people were in dire straits financially during 2016, as well as how many people are in desperate need of jobs, including many with college degrees. I personally know of people who can’t afford basic levels of housing where they’re living. Not to mention a number of people, including fellow authors, who I know are struggling to even pay utility bills and purchase groceries and other essentials. The majority of so-called plentiful jobs are shitty, part-time positions with limited hours available and no benefits. You can’t make it, even if you were working three part-time jobs simultaneously, which is what some people are forced to attempt.

Finally, 2016 was the year that American politics went from an all-time low to diabolically sub-human. Oh, yes, I could point to the presidential level, but one has only to view state and local politicians to see the new pathetic standard of politics in our country. I see that society’s behaviors are now reflecting the depravity of our politicians. Apparently, according to political ethics today, it’s perfectly okay for members of society to openly declare and demonstrate: misogyny, homophobia, religious extremism, xenophobia, perpetuation of individual economic disparagement, bullying and acts of personal intimidation, bold-face lying, dogma over logic, and a general disregard of facts. According to our nation's upcoming president, it's now perfectly legitimate to be rude, crude, and socially unacceptible. There’s no longer any need to write novels presenting dystopian societies…you merely have to observe the world around you.

In Memoriam: The Loss of Important Voices and Influencers

Those who passed in 2016.

Those who passed in 2016.

The following is in no way a comprehensive list of those who were lost in 2016. Instead, I’ll list those who were influential to me in some manner or another.

In January, singer David Bowie passed away. Yes, he had a long, successful life, but his music was personally influential to me both growing up and well into my adulthood. Additionally, Alan Rickman passed away. I’m a BIG fan of his roles, especially in Love, Actually, GalaxyQuest, and Severus Snape (my favorite HP series character!) in the Harry Potter films.

In April, Prince died. I was such a big fan of his music, not to mention he was a talented, refreshing figure in the music industry. At 57, he passed away too soon.

June brought a triplet of senseless and sad deaths. Mohammad Ali was more than a famous boxer. He was a symbol of hope, strength, and spirit of never giving up, even as Parkinson's ravaged his body. Christina Grimmie from Season 6 of NBC's "The Voice" was only 22 and died from being shot while signing autographs in Orlando, Florida. Finally, Anton Yelchin, who expertly portrayed Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot films, died in a freak accident at only 27.

In August, two deaths were noteworthy to me as they resonated all the way back to my childhood. Kenny Baker, who magically brought life to the endearing robot R2-D2 from the Star Wars universe, passed away. Gene Wilder, revered for his roles in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, also died. Wilder’s portrayal of Willy Wonka mesmerized me as a child, and his voice singing “Pure Imagination” is forever seared into my mind. Few songs reflect the sheer magic that swells deep inside oneself if only one seeks and embraces it…

The passing of veteran journalist Gwen Ifill in November marked the loss of a plain-talking voice of dignity and reason in a world of outlandish presidential politics. Oh, how we desperately need more voices like hers.

For 2016’s final coup de grace, December brought the passing of two influential figures. First, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, but also the well-known face of the space race for generations of Americans.

The passing of Carrie Fisher.

The passing of Carrie Fisher.

Finally, just around Christmas, Carrie Fisher, whose historic portrayal of the heroine Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga captured the hearts and minds of multiple generations of sci-fi fans, passed away. In addition, I mustn’t forget to mention her indelible impact on truth and courage for those who struggle with personal demons and addictions, and her raw, earnest reflection on society and politics today. And especially sad was that Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed away only a day after her; a daughter followed by her mother.

I, for one, remain hopeful that 2017 will be less of a shit-fest than 2016. I try to live my life with positive expectations…it’s simply how I’m wired. However, one thing is certain: If each of us doesn’t stand up against the worst of 2016, we’re destined for a repeat performance…or worse. Let’s not permit that to occur, shall we?

Jaz closes the post with good humor.

Jaz closes the post with good humor.

Until later, enjoy life, be kind to those around you, and Happy New Year! Peace.