I first fancied myself a writer back in the early '70s. It was a heady time for arts writers at the time, with Rolling Stone and the Village Voice producing high-quality rock and film criticism on a weekly basis. Of course, there was better product to write about then. But there has been no one in recent years like Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Andrew Sarris, Lester Bangs, Pauline Kael, etc., to bring meaning to the great music and movies that were being produced at the time.
So it was that, in the fine tradition of Christgau's Pazz and Jop Polls, I produced my first best-of list of record albums (yes, albums) for the year 1975. It was handwritten -- and that's not the only way it was amateurish. I swear I just saw it around here somewhere -- if I find it, I'll scan it and put it up. In the meantime, I do remember that my top album was Neil Young's masterpiece "Tonight's the Night". Say what you want about by 2+ years of blubbering on this blog -- as least I got that right.
I am in no position to do a music best-of this year, nor have I been for the past twenty years or so. I am as disconnected from popular music trends as they are from me. The last great album was, what, "The Rising"? The last great radio singles were both from OutKast ("Hey Ya" and "The Way You Move"), and that was over five years ago ("I Kissed a Girl"? Please.). I hear there might be other things going on out there - at least I get exposed to some of them on the life-saving Radio Milwaukee 88.9 - but music as a force that can cause seismic societal change (like the Beatles) doesn't exist any more. Now: you have a niche, I have a niche, and seldom the twain shall meet, except maybe on Facebook.
But that doesn't mean we can't recognize some of the things that made 2008 such an entertaining, terrifying joy-ride. Ergo, 2008: the Good and the Bad:
Springsteen at HarleyFest - a glorious multi-generational celebration.
CC Sabathia - he'll never be as dominant with the Yankees as was he was during the Brewers' frantic playoff run, but what a beautiful thing to watch.
The Illusory Tenant - a smarter and better blogger than I'll ever be.
James T. Harris - the biggest buffoon on radio, blogs and Fox Noise all rolled into one. Produced the funniest video of the years by stomping off of CNN when he couldn't answer a simple question.
David Clarke - if you're drunk and lucky, your publicity-hungry, wing-nutty sheriff might help you get out of the snowbank and send you on your way, too.
Mark Belling - proudly flying the racist flag for 20 years now.
The Shepherd Express - continuing to slip into the abyss, with idiotic weekly polls; ludicrous transcribed conversations about sports with their ridiculous mascot and some other guy; and, this week, an embarrassing poem by their embarrassing society columnists. The death of the newspaper industry can't come too soon for the S-E. The difference is they 1) brought it on themselves and, therefore 2) deserve it. Well, there goes my Best of the Blogs citation, eh, Lou?
Journal Sentinel - Desperately trying to maintain relevance while its pages shrink and price increases. Its limited content is strangely clogged with Patrick McIlheran and, every Sunday, some editor or other making pathetic excuses for themselves. By the end of '09, the paper might be just a weekender.
Barack Obama - good luck, brother -- make us proud
Hillary and Bill Clinton - put up with more bullshit than any couple, ever, and still continue to make the nation a better place, everyday
Democratic Congress - if they do it right, it's ours for a generation.
Sen. Al Franken - funny, right and his soon-to-be-confirmed victory steams the right more than any other loss.
Shoes Thrown at Bush - the perfect ending for a pathetic excuse for a president.
John McCain - embarrassed himself by abandoning his better judgement and his principles by giving himself over to the usual Rovian GOP consultants. The result was the disaster he deserved.
Sarah Palin - in over her head, beyond parody (as delicious as Tina Fey's parody was), and Exhibit Number One for McCain's incredibly irresponsible campaign. Had as much business being on a national ticket as Joe the Plumber.
Sean Hannity - Took over for Rush Limbaugh as the nation's number-one wing-nut, on the "strength" of his cable platform and willingness to shill and provide smarmily-friendly platforms for Palin and any other Republicans afraid of real journalists.
Dick Cheney - The most demonstrably deranged, evil executive presence since Nixon, without the endearing psychosis. "You Don't Know" Dick is doing a farewell tour showing how wrong he is about everything. Bye-bye, now. And take Junior, your little rodeo clown, with you.