We are deep into the end-of-the-year honorifics — TIME's Person of the year (it used to be Man of the Year, so we are making progress), athletes of the year, movie of the year, book of the year and, I suppose if you dig deeply enough into this mound of reflections, you'd find the dog of the year. It's a perfect storm of a media blitz to carry us off on the wings of hype into 2013.
We all have our own special moments from 2012. My Most Startling Moment came late in the year, just a week or so ago, when I read a wire service news story about a Vatican announcement that the Pope is now Twittering.
He will answer questions, the press release said, about the faith. Now, that squeezes the whole social media phenomena into one tiny kernel of wonder.
What I wonder is what the world's most potent religious leader can tell us about faith in 140 characters or less.
I mentioned this to an iconoclastic friend who suggested the answer might be "Because I said so ..." but I'm sure that isn't the case. Although I'm no expert in these matters.
NEITHER am I an expert in the matter of the end of the world.
I was pretty sure, however, that the Mayan calendar prophecy was nothing to worry about.
I saw a cartoon somewhere, within the past month, showing two ancient Mayans, one with a block of stone and a chisel, saying to the other something like: Well, that's it for this calendar, I've run out of stone."
And the other responding: "That could cause confusion somewhere down the road."
When you've been hanging out in the same old place for years on end, everything reminds you of a story. And the whole Mayan thing reminded me of some previous doomsdays, which I would like to share as my hopeful New Year's gift to you all.
FIRST, of course, there was the Y2K thing — all those discussions of how unsettled the world becomes in the years around a century change and how a decade that marks the passage of a thousand years was sure to be 10 times worse.
In 2000 (some said 2001, it seemed unclear when the century actually ended) computers were going to crash the system worldwide and — as we all knew — a world without computers could not possibly survive.
That flap was reminiscent of an earlier prediction, one that affected just a small section of the world — but, alas, it was our world that was doomed.
This came in 1968 with the publication of a fanciful work of fiction by author Curt Gentry called "The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California."
Gentry wrote about a cataclysmic earthquake that would break off a portion of the Pacific Coast — our portion — and drop it into the sea. The coastline would be re-established somewhere around Lovelock, Nevada. And we Californians would be .<TH>.<TH>. well, toast.
I remember all this so very well because it occasioned a remarkable note from my editor, Art Volkerts.
It came to me on a piece of copy paper, a device that preceded office email, and, in Art's familiar journalistic shorthand, it read: "caller sez people in old folks homes getting worried. can you say something soothing about the earthquake?"