Back at the turn of the 20th century, when my grandmother was growing up in the Italian countryside, her town bore witness to a remarkable phenomenon: a solar eclipse. My grandmother, then a young girl, did what any levelheaded would have done at the time: she and her sister dressed up in their Sunday best, said their final prayers, and lay down that night, expecting to awaken the next morning and find themselves in Heaven. Alas, the eclipse, it turned out, was not a portent of the coming Rapture but the mere positioning of the moon between our Earth and the sun. My grandmother and her sister did not stir awake to find themselves being borne heavenward by gossamer-winged angels. Instead, they were roused out of bed by their angry father who reprimanded them for wrinkling their fineries before sending them off to work the fields for the afternoon.

I’m sure that, at the time, with the end of the century drawing near, it was a perfectly valid assumption. Eclipse = End of the World. We may laugh at my grandmother’s ridiculous reasoning but, over a hundred years later, we’re still making assumptions based on what we believe to be common sense (and what people who purportedly know better tell us). “Eat more red meat!”said the experts. “It’s high in iron!” Then: “Don’t eat too much red meat! It’s high in saturated fats!” “Eat more tuna!”they suggested. “It’s low in fat!” Then: “Don’t eat too much tuna! It’s high in mercury!” The latest findings I read about in a recent issue of Men’s Health finally dispelled the notion that even a little exercise is good for you. Specifically, the long-held belief that even if you can’t hit the gym and work out strenuously every morning, just a ten minute walk a day is better than nothing. Evidently, it’s equal to nothing as these new studies show it bestows absolutely no health benefits. In fact, I would argue that venturing outdoors where one risks being run down by a car or struck by an errant low-flying crow is potentially more hazardous to your health than sitting at home and reading a book.

The point is, don’t believe what anyone tells you no matter how well-informed they may seem and, for Godsake, think twice before applying common sense to any part of your daily life. My cousin’s friend returned to his apartment one day to find his roommate asleep, the refrigerator empty, and nothing but a seemingly empty potato chip bag sitting on the coffee table. He picked up the bag to throw it out and heard the unmistakable rattle of what lowly crumbs remained. A few crumbs is better than nothing, he assumed, upending the bag and tapping the contents into his mouth. Actually, in this case, a few crumbs was worse than nothing. Common sense dictated the bag held potato chip remnants and not his roommate’s toenail clippings.

Be very afraid! Of everything!

But also be optimistic! It’s the dawn of a new year and, as we look forward to whatever 2007 holds in store, let’s take a moment and hope for better. I would personally like to wish for:

1) A better cultural understanding between the various ethnicities that make up this great world.

2) Medical breakthroughs that will bring relief to millions and cure some of the hitherto incurable diseases that have plagued us for centuries.

3) Quarterbacks faced with fourth and long to throw past the first down marker rather than dumping it off short and hoping their receiver will pick up the extra yardage (which they never do).

4) Continued advancements in space exploration that will some day lead us to unravel the secrets of our universe.

5) A moratorium on movies starring any TWO OR MORE of the following: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell.

6) International cooperation to help reverse the threat of global warming.

7) An end to those ugly (presumably) unisex plastic clog-like sandals.

8) World peace.

9) The Gelato 2000 ice cream maker.

10) E.S.P.

And while I’m listing, some congratulations are in order:

Congratulations to Martin Gero who has just finished directing his very first feature and is now in the process of editing together a first cut which his fellow Stargate producers will hopefully get to see (and mercilessly critique).

Congratulations to Boise State and the Oklahoma Sooners for giving us the greatest end to a football game I’ve ever seen. With Boise State leading by 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Sooners mount a comeback, scoring a late touchdown and 2 point conversion to tie it up. Then, with just over a minute to go, intercepting a pass and running it in for the touchdown for an improbable come-from-behind win. Only to have Boise State drive down the field and, with only seconds left and faced with a 4th and 18, connect for a first down and then run the hook and lateral which results in a touchdown, tying the game and sending it into overtime. Where the Sooners score the first time they touch the ball on an incredible run. Only to have Boise State answer with their own touchdown on a 4th and 2 and then, rather than going for the one point to tie, going for two and getting the win on the old Statue of Liberty play. Incredible! Somebody get me a Broncos jersey.

Congratulations to my sister’s friend Eric from Boston who did the unthinkable – making a dessert that contained candied fruit that I actually enjoyed. Pictured above, the soft coconut flaked desserts containing candied fruit, nuts, and a near-liquid, eggnog-like center.

And, finally, congratulations to me for not ballooning to Jabba the Hut-like proportions despite my eating program which include such dishes as coticina (pictured above, raw and then cooked), a home made sausage made from pork meat and what my mother refers to as “lean fat”.

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Carolina
Carolina

Regarding space exploration, I don’t think it will be difficult to advance… I mean, it seems that we have been tricked and the men never went to the Moon if this is so I wouldn’t be suprise to hear that the Stargate proyect is a fake!!!! and come on, it made all the sense in the world… smile

SunDancer
SunDancer

Joe,

I second most items on your top 10 list, including #10, but I wonder what your definition of ESP is:

Extremely Smart People?

Endless Sushi Party?

Or is your ESP definition the same as mine:

Everbody Shares & Prospers…

Michelle
Michelle

My sister is a part-time professor at Boise State so if you really want a jersey, I can hook you up smile That was indeed an incredible play!

Melantha
Melantha

Hi Joe,

Just found your blog today so have been thoroughly enjoying catching up on your posts!

Just have to say a big ‘Eww’ to the digestion of toenail clippage! That poor guy. Bless your gran! And that I heartily agree with your moratorium!

Anyway, Happy New Year!

(From a random person on the internet who is a fan of your work)

firefly827347
firefly827347

Yet again, your family rules.
Note to self: never ever eat again while reading Joe’s blog.