Hurry up 2021!

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a stinker of a year.

And maybe we should have seen it coming, because from the very start, 2020 came with some pretty ominous associations. For starters, it was a leap year. Check your calendar, and you’ll find 2020 includes a February 29th, which only happens once every four years. Second, it is the year of the Rat, the beginning of the cycle in the Chinese zodiac, and a year that is supposed to bring ingenuity and renewal. That only happens once every 12 years. Third, 2020 is a so called double-date year, where the first two digits are the same as the last two as in 1919, 1818, or 1717. That only happens once a century and interestingly enough, 2020 is the fourth century in a row to be visited by a pandemic during the double-date year. In 1919, it was the Spanish Flu. In 1818, it was Asiatic Cholera, and in 1717, it was Small Pox.

Even without the Covid-19 Pandemic, 2020 was an unbelievably busy news year. It saw the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani triggering open hostilities with Iran, the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 killing all 176 souls on board, Harry and Megan’s dramatic exit stage right from the British Royal Family, the death of more than one billion animals and the extinction of several endangered species in the Australian brush fires, Brexit in the U.K., the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump, the California fires and the horrific death of George Floyd unleashing widespread protest throughout United States.

The cherry on top of all that social turmoil was the U.S. Presidential Election in November, which many saw as the fight for the soul of America, and perhaps the last chance for it to preserve its democracy in an increasingly autocratic world. And even when the good guy eventually won, he did not ride off into a Hollywood sunset, but into an apocalyptic landscape teetering on the thin edge of who knows what.

I tried to capture some of the angst of 2020 in these two short movies, which are both set to a song called These Days. Let’s all hope it’s a Happy New Year!

Pandemic
Lead-up to 2020 presidential election

Songs for a better world

Hi guys. Here’s a playlist featuring songs sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter protest currently underway in the United States. It’s called Justice Now, which is a shout-out to the notion that this protest will lead to significant change and the end of systemic racism wherever it exists.

2020: the year of the rat, and other stuff.

Even without the coming U.S. presidential election, 2020 would still be a very quirky year.

For starters, it’s a leap year. Check your calendar for 2020 and you’ll find it includes a February 29th. That only happens once every four years. Second, it is the year of the rat, the beginning of the cycle in the Chinese zodiac, and a year that is supposed to bring ingenuity and renewal. That only happens once every 12 years. Third, 2020 is a double-date year, where the first two digits are the same as the last two as in 1919, 1818, or 1717. That only happens once a century.

But more to point, we are only a little more than halfway into this tumultuous year, and it seems like there’s already been enough societal turbulence to fill a decade. So far this year, we have seen the outbreak of the corona virus, the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani triggering open hostilities with Iran, the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 killing all 176 souls on board, Harry and Megan’s dramatic exit stage right from the British Royal Family, the death of more than one billion animals and the extinction of several endangered species in the Australian brush fires, Brexit in the U.K., the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump and the horrific death of George Floyd unleashing widespread protest throughout United States.

But as we all know, there is at least one more big news story on the agenda for 2020. It is the cherry on top of this Pandora’s box of horrors: the U.S. Presidential Election, the outcome of which will have huge ramifications, not just for America, but for the entire world. It will determine, I think, the direction of our humanity for decades to come.

Even though the election is likely to affect every living person and organism on this planet, only Americans get to vote, and rightly so. It is, after all, their election. However, I think it’s okay for the rest of us to at least express an opinion, and it is in that spirit that I offer up this short movie chronicling events of 2020 in song and photographs.

Song and video by Donald Glenn

Walking Dead: A Metaphor for America.

I hesitate to admit to a guilty pleasure I have managed to keep secret for almost a decade. My name is Glenn, and I am a Walkaholic. I am irredeemably infected with the special juice that causes aficionados like myself to devour broadcasts of the Walking Dead, show after show, season after season. I have seen every minute of every episode of the AMC series since it first aired on Halloween night in the year of our Lord 2010, and I expect that I will continue watching until they stop making the show, or I die.

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But that is not the news here, fake or otherwise. It’s my reason for watching, I believe, that sets me apart from my fellow addicts. For me, the Walking Dead is the perfect metaphor for American society and, because of the close geographic and social proximity of the United States, for my own small corner of the world—Canada. The central premise of the Walking Dead is the idea of the other, and the show revolves around the dilemma of how best to protect ourselves from their bloodthirsty intent.

In the first episodes of the show, the role of the other was played by the zombies—salivating hoards of rotting undead, fixed on the relentless, though somewhat clumsy, pursuit of uninfected human flesh. When they did manage to bite someone, they turned them into slobbering zombies like themselves, and the cycle continued spreading the mysterious zombie virus throughout the world.

The Walking Dead metaphor works on so many levels. For Millennials on the verge of adulthood, it is easy to see the zombies as members of established society sleepwalking their way through life, oblivious to the real-world wonders all around them. For Americans who fear the coming influx of people from other parts of the world, the zombies can be seen as a threat to their way of life and their deeply-rooted reluctance to embrace fundamental social change.

But it is in the more recent shows that the Walking Dead metaphor so clearly analogies the fork in the road that currently lays before the American people. In the later shows, the uninfected survivors splinter into rival tribes as they struggle to survive the inhospitable world brought on by the rise of the zombies. It is the members of rival tribes that have become the enemy—the other. The key question that the survivors face is ‘are we safer living together with the other tribes, or are we better off on our own?’ It is stunningly similar to the choices facing the citizens of Donald Trump’s America: What is the correct path forward at this key juncture in American history? Are we better to go it alone with people like ourselves who we know we can trust, or should we join forces with the other to tackle the big problems that threaten the whole world?

That’s why I have to keep watching, and I’m talking here about both the Walking Dead and the trials and tribulations of my good neighbours to the south. I have to find out what happens.