Thursday, January 08, 2009


The old year is past and the new year is upon us. Time to reflect briefly on the good things and bad things of 2008.

Bad things first, which include:
  • The economy, the continuing military excursion in Iraq, the continuing encroachment on our individual liberties, and the ongoing enfeeblement of the press. Thanks, George W!
  • Starbucks closing my local store. (And closing my former local store back in Indiana.) Not that I'm a big fan of corporate anything, but it's surprising how even a poorly performing Starbucks location forms its own tight community. My store is sorely missed not just by me (primarily for its convenient location) but, more importantly, by the regulars who made it their home. Home is where you find it, and dozens of people lost their home when the corporate office downsized.
  • The "merger" of XM and Sirius satellite radio -- more accurately, a hostile takeover of my beloved XM by the smaller and less-successful Sirius. Gone are my favorite personalities, especially those on what was formerly my favorite XM channel, Soul Street: Bobby Bennett, Dr. Nick, and Leigh Hamilton. The late lamented Soul Street was, hands down, the best-programmed channel I've heard on any radio service, period, and it was criminal for Sirius to dump it so unceremoniously. Not only do I miss the DJs' expertise and intelligent conversation, the replacement channel (Sirius' Soul Town) leans too heavily on crappy 70s funk and not enough on the sweet 50s and 60s soul (including a lot of obscure tracks) that made Soul Street so great. Other favorite channels have also bit the dust, and the survivors seem to have shortened and more frequently repeated playlists. While I did pick up a few decent new channels (Little Steven's Underground Garage, The Bridge, and the real NPR), the "new" Sirius XM sucks almost as bad as terrestrial radio. I'm just glad I'm no longer driving 1200 or so miles a month, so I'm not forced to listen to this crap.
  • The passing of some of my favorite public people. Chief among those these are musicians Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops) and Isaac Hayes, actor Paul Newman, the legendary Bette Page, and author Donald E. Westlake, one of the most talented and prolific writers of any genre. They are all missed.
  • Way too much snow in Minnesota.
Good things about 2009 include:
  • The fall of the crony capitalistic dictatorship of Bush and Cheney and the election of Barack Obama. Of course, Obama inherits one of the biggest messes in history, but he's a smart guy who surrounds himself with smart guys -- a good start, at least.
  • With the election of Obama, the notion that it's okay if not cool to be smart. I'm tired of this country's ignorance worship; it's time we looked up to those folks who actually know what they're doing.
  • The Dark Knight and Iron Man -- finally, two really good comic book movies. (And I can't wait to see Watchmen when it releases later in 2009...)
  • My favorite albums of the year, including the charming Volume One from She and Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward); Brian Wilson's latest near-masterpiece, That Lucky Old Sun; Duffy's Brit-soul Rockferry; Shelby Lynne's tribute to the great Dusty Springfield, Just a Little Lovin'; and my personal favorite, James Hunter's infectious blue-eyed soul on The Hard Way. We had the personal pleasure of seeing both Brian Wilson and James Hunter in concert this year, and both were joyous experiences.
  • Getting married to the love of my life and enjoying family life, including time with all my new step-grandchildren. (See my other blog for pics of us and the kids.) It was a bit of a change after 50 years of bachelorhood, but well worth it.

And that was my year, and my opinions. Reasonable minds, as always, may disagree.

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