Today in Tedium: So, 2021 was no 2020, even if it borrowed many of the same contours of that wretched year. But it was still the calendar equivalent of me walking down the street after I rolled my ankle, pretending that everything is OK, even though my ankle was telling me otherwise. (I often wince when reading descriptions of people rolling their ankles, so if that describes you, I apologize in advance.) Many folks got vaccinated this year. Some even got boosters. But COVID-19 remains an extremely dynamic part of the way that we live and experience the world. But even if optimism was in short supply (and less so after learning that as I was posting this, Betty White died just three weeks before her 100th birthday), tedium was in ample supply. And with that, let’s do another one of these year-end issues (the eighth one!) where we try to look forward and back all at once. — Ernie @ Tedium
Today’s GIF is from a video of the giant acorn drop in Raleigh, North Carolina. Yes, North Carolina rolls with acorns.
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Five signs 2022 will be better than 2021
- A law in Illinois will bar health officials from regulating lemonade stands. Hayli’s law, named for a 12-year-old Illinois girl who suffered the indignity of having her stand shut down by local health officials, will allow children under the age of 16 to run lemonade stands without a permit. Hayli Martinez 1, lemonade haters 0.
- A lot of good TV shows are finally coming back. A number of popular shows that had their production schedules messed up by the pandemic, including Stranger Things, Russian Doll, The Righteous Gemstones, and Better Call Saul (which also had to deal with its lead star having a heart attack in 2021), are expected to make their return in 2022, meaning that you should probably cancel your plans for the next year as Omicron slowly wafts over the planet.
- “Goblincore” is emerging as a thing. In case you’re an old millennial feeling like you need a reminder that you’re not a kid anymore, an emerging design and fashion trend called Goblincore is looking to become a big thing in 2022, according to an Instagram trends report. What the hell is Goblincore, you ask? It’s a trend that leans into the earthier elements of the world as a form of fashion and aesthetic. “To me, goblincore is the feral side of fairytales,” said TikTok user @mountain.hag, in comments to Vice.
- We’re moving past suits in the office. Speaking of fashion, one of the things that the pandemic has helped to encourage is a long-term move away from work-focused dress clothing. As a recent Fast Company piece noted, while “back to work” clothes were on the rise once again, folks are ditching things like button-downs and suit jackets in favor of clothing that’s actually comfortable. So once you get back to the office, expect to wear a glorified track suit.
- We’re making progress on a lot of non-COVID health issues. As pointed out by Steven Petrow of The Washington Post, vaccines produced using similar techniques to the messenger RNA-based COVID-19 vaccines many of us took this year could help to fight different types of cancer in the long run, helping improve our chances of surviving a disease that has taken a whole lot of lives from us all too soon. Will it do the trick? It’s a little soon to say, but there’s reason to be optimistic.
The number of “palindrome” dates in the month of February of 2022, the longest span of palindromes in the coming year, which will have 20 palindromes in total, according to Time and Date. While that sounds like a lot, it’s actually a lot less than we had in 2021, when we had 36 (most of those hitting in January and December), though that was by far the busiest palindrome year in at least the last quarter-century.
I keep getting older, but wall calendars stay the same age
It seems strange to think about the fact that we’re now on our eighth year of look-back/look-ahead newsletter issues, and every single year has had some sort of mention of wall calendars. Sure, some mentions are longer than others, but there is no reason why we need to keep mentioning them, and how terrible they usually are.
But this is Tedium, and at Tedium, we like to beat jokes into the ground. So, with that in mind, let’s dig through Amazon and find some incredibly strange and absurd wall calendars for the next calendar cycle and make jokes about these single-use objects.
So let’s dig through some dang calendars!
(For newsletter readers, the full list will be available at this link to click on.)
I know that tiny houses are kind of a hot trend right now (after all, Elon Musk maybe lives in one), but I’m pretty sure a wall calendar featuring outhouses isn’t necessarily the best way to celebrate the efficiency of small structures. Maybe if you have an outhouse, this is the wall calendar you get? Just spitballing here. (And if you think this outhouse calendar stinks, there are other variants.)
What do you think was harder: posing the photo so that the hedgehog looked like an ice cream cone, having the hedgehog hold a tiny lollipop, or getting the hedgehog to smile? Just be content in knowing that Sonic doesn’t have to slum it like this to get a paycheck.
There are much more explicit versions of this general idea elsewhere on Amazon, but Tedium is a family newsletter: We draw the line at photos framed so that they kind of look like butts. I hope someone in Christopher Meloni’s life has already given him this calendar.
Somewhere out there, there is a horse photographer that has been taking photos like this all year, with nowhere to sell them. Not even the stock photo services want them. But because this calendar exists, their awkward pictures of horses using their mouths finally have a commercial avenue.
I’m trying to understand the market for this one: Elderly people you don’t know, doing goofy things for sake of the camera, all for the purpose of a wall calendar? Do the producers of this calendar think of the Greatest Generation as another form of cat?
Sometimes, a cover raises more questions than it answers. To start with: Aren’t dogs already animals? If the dog is supposed to be a unicorn, can we really call what it’s being turned into an animal? And how quickly did said dog remove this dumb mask?
Anyway, if you must have a single-serving calendar that will be completely outdated a year from today, have at it, dorks.
The percentage of Americans who are optimistic that we will be more prosperous in 2022 compared to 2021, according to a poll by Ipsos. While this sounds like a lot, it’s a few ticks below the rest of the world (77 percent) and more than 10 percent below where Americans stood on this same issue at the beginning of 2021 (82 percent).
The state of our Tedium in 2022 is defined by our cultural inability to coalesce
The start of 2022 feels a lot like the start of 2021, in that we’re facing a never-ending outbreak, and a not-insignificant portion of the population seems hellbent on letting their personal freedoms undermine any efforts to hold it back.
We’re perhaps not in as an extreme place as we were at the start of 2021, but it still feels like a raw nerve waiting to be touched.
Culturally, the rawest point of said raw nerve came right at the beginning of 2021, when the transfer of political power in the United States felt, at least for a moment, more like an open question than an inevitability. It was a mess, and I think we’re still feeling the impact of that day nearly a year removed from that bizarre moment.
Even a newsletter like this, which rarely dives into political stuff, wasn’t left unscathed. When I dared point out that the Capitol riots were kind of a hard thing to watch as someone who used to live in that general area of D.C., I got something I wasn’t used to: hate mail. There wasn’t a lot of it—and to be clear, Bean Dad was getting it way worse than I was at that time—but it was enough that I felt the impact of this idea that we let our divisions dominate seemingly every interaction we have with others.
That piece was about the ability to reset, to get a fresh start, something that as a culture, we really needed at that point, no matter who was in charge. (There was also a Con Air allegory in there, but I digress.) And there were points where it seemed like we got the machine to reboot over the past 12 months. But the virus kept getting in, and that virus became hard to resolve on its own.
So, in some ways, we needed our own toolkits to deal with the complexities of the world. And when the world isn’t offering them, sometimes you develop your own.
In a way, starting MidRange, the secondary newsletter I do, helped me consider some of these issues in the context of a more modest newsletter; in July, for example, I discussed the idea of “tactical freedom”—that is, a willingness to forego a small degree of personal freedom for the greater good and the potential of more freedom down the line. And earlier this month, I think I nailed down an effective way of considering how to take on issues where things get heated in the midst of debate: In a piece I titled “Don’t Look Through the Microscope,” I highlighted how easy it is to dwell on small criticisms in the midst of what may largely be more positive discussions.
The thing is, we live in a moment where some people want to play ball, and some people just don’t want to. Some people may, even worse, decide to lean into the chaos, because it’s personally or professionally expedient for them. And there’s no easy way to square that as a broader culture circle if large chunks of people actively choose not to be on board.
Maybe we have to embrace the fact that there’s maybe no realistic way that we’ll all gel behind a single moment. It almost, for a brief moment as we were stuck in our houses, felt like we might have that coalescent moment, but it quickly dissipated. Maybe the best we can do is try to understand one another.
This week, I caught a clip of a great Ted Koppel report for CBS Sunday Morning, a show famous for taking a light, if intellectual, approach to pop culture, about the idealistic “good ol’ days.” Koppel, who is now in his 80s, decided, after hearing a comparison between the actual North Carolina and the fictional town of Mayberry from the old Andy Griffith Show, to travel to Mount Airy, the city where Griffith was born, and it’s believed by some upon which Mayberry was based. But the truth of the matter is, that was never confirmed by Griffith himself; it’s a marketing gimmick for the town. And on top of all that, that idealized vision left a lot of people out—particularly anyone who wasn’t white.
“What they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community,” Koppel told The Washington Post about the report. “What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the creative minds of a bunch of scriptwriters out in Hollywood.”
Koppel, armed with the knowledge that the tourists were being sold a fantasy, decided to pose the question to visitors: What did you believe? And most of them did not believe the election was honest, the events of January 6th were as portrayed, or that Koppel’s line of work was honest.
(And a couple final wrinkles: Griffith was a lifelong Democrat who stumped for blue candidates all the way until the end of his life, and his show defied the anti-communist Hollywood blacklist of the era, not that any of them knew that.)
The moment I realized something was seriously wrong with the way we perceive one another dates back more than eight years at this point, when I was on my honeymoon. We went to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and unfortunately for us, Ted Cruz decided to play a game of political brinksmanship that shut down the government—including the national park, during the very period we were there on our honeymoon. So to salvage the trip, we did all the very touristy things, including walking through a craft show at a convention center in Pigeon Forge.
One person we talked to during this very touristy journey was showing off their crafts, and being that it was our honeymoon, we were open to buying some of those crafts. She asked where we were from, so we told them—Washington, D.C. And unprompted, the person seemed like they were ready to change their entire viewpoint of us, because all they could do was think about D.C. in a political sense. It was as if we were somehow bad people because we traveled to them from a big city. They let out a criticism of Obama, and they kept going for a couple of minutes. Tonally, everything changed in that moment … and honestly, it kind of sucked. To be frank, it was not quite Mayberry.
We were on our honeymoon, trying to make the best of it, and we got pulled into a political rant by someone triggered by nothing other than the city in which we lived. Their dwelling on politics in a purely apolitical moment (although it could be said that politics technically got us in the room that day) probably cost her a sale. And honestly, I think back to that conversation now and realize that was a harbinger of what was to come culturally.
And I feel like there are people like that on all sides, who are more focused on “othering” people rather than accepting that there is room for everyone. We will never come together in one piece if we are focused on our differences rather than our points of common ground.
Mayberry isn’t real. But the person across the street from you who may not have marked the same boxes on the voting ballot as you is definitely real. Even if you disagree politically, as a culture, we still need to be able to have a conversation with that person in our lives.
Maybe focusing on tedium is a way to get there. After all, we all drink out of juice boxes, we all use batteries, and we all appreciate the variety of Neapolitan ice cream. But we’re not there now, and we may not be for some time.
So that’s where we are leading into 2022. I know, total bundle of joy here.
Now, to be clear, we’re all a little bit different. We have different traditions that drive us forward. And not all of those traditions look quite the same.
New Year’s is just one example of this. A recent USA Today piece lays out how, just in Pennsylvania, the New Year traditions end up being extremely strange and diverse. And none of them look like a giant ball dropped in Times Square. It’s not uncommon for Mechanicsburg, for example, to drop a giant wrench. The city of Hershey doesn’t drop anything—instead, it raises a giant Hershey’s Kiss. And in Lebanon, a 200-pound custom-made piece of bologna. And that’s just one state.
Other states do things like drop giant peaches (in Atlanta) or massive steel acorns (in Raleigh, North Carolina). In a way, it’s like our differences are all on display with this phenomenon of dropping (or raising) different objects to honor a year that we are hopeful might be a little bit better than the last one.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we considered that the fact that we’re all honoring the same shift in the calendar year by doing things to honor that shift makes us more similar than different?
That’s the tedium I strive for. I hope, as you start your 2022, you find your version of the 200-pound bologna in the sky and you find a way to celebrate a fresh start.
Find this one an interesting read? Share it with a pal, and see you in 2022!