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Sunni's Salon, March 2006

Sometimes circumstances conspire in interesting ways. As the books I review had me looking both backward and forward in time more deliberately than usual, I noticed that this month marks the one-year anniversary for Sunni's Salon. A nice milestone to reach, to be sure (but not without its challenges, as the January issue remains MIA and clouded in mystery). And warm thanks to all of you who return each month to cozy up with us. Back to time for a moment, though ...

Challenges arise when peering in either direction down the timeline, but the types of challenges differ enormously. Looking into the past, trends, relationships, and signs of impending shifts in society's institutions and structures are visible, aided by the clear vision of hindsight. As nature's cycles remind us, careful attention to the past is a powerful aid to looking forward. Who should one trust with one's attention, though? Historical accounts are inevitably colored by the recorders' biases, which is one reason why official history is often squeaky clean, and deadly dull. Give me the contrarians' views — the losers, the paranoid, and the conspiracy theorists — then I'll have a better chance of figuring out what really happened. Of course, exactly how the past applies to the future is never clear; even though, for example, the earth sees regular cycles of increased sunspot activity, that doesn't help pin down in advance how severe any given cycle will be.

The future — ah, how full of promise it seems! Or how full of impending human destruction it seems. Swine flu epidemic, anyone? Will today's bird flu fears follow that pattern, or that of the infamous 1918 influenza epidemic? While many of us think we know how the future will pan out, its course is anything but linear or predictable; something that seems a surety today could wind up an obscure bit of trivia in just a few years (can you say Betamax?). Depending on what one's betting with, if one bets wrong it can bring down a whole heap of woe. And how something plays out can come down to a relatively minor item that some big fish decides to turn into a major issue. Like the existence of WMDs in a certain country, for example. Feeling lucky yet?

An informed perspective comes when an individual's willing to do the hard work of looking around — including looking both forward and backward in time — with a critical mind. What one gets out of history depends upon how much effort one puts into its study — and again, who one chooses to study and base his own interpretation upon. The future? Well, no amount of effort can nail down the future, although some seem better at crystal-ball contemplation than others. Maybe they're lucky, or maybe they're on to something. Seems to me, with the paltry examination of history I've done, that those who attend to the lessons of history are better prepared to anticipate the curveballs the future inevitably throws. All I know is that I try hard to stay as informed as I can, while holding on to the handrail, because it is, quite literally, the ride of my life. As one who loved the old Marathon candy bar, it's about all I can do.

This month Tom and I are pleased to offer you looks at both the past and the future. My interview with Life Sharers founder Dave Undis sheds some light on possible futures in organ transplantation, as well as offering some peeks at the person behind that important group. I review two excellent books that I recommend to everyone interested in the future of this country — Spychips and Empire of Debt. And in both the Webby Wanderings and Musical Maunderings I focus on a variety of singular showings that I've come to deeply appreciate.

So, welcome to March, and a happy anniversary celebration in Sunni's Salon! We're offering glasses of champagne, or premium bottled water, along with a variety of sweet and savory noshes for your enjoyment. It's good to have been serving you for a year; we hope to be here, serving up individualistic culture for many more. If the fancy strikes, please let us know how we can improve for you.

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