The Cosby saga -- This was a particularly hard pill to swallow. I grew up listening to Bill Cosby. Cosby’s comedy was just plain fun. Long before he became “America’s Dad,” his comedy was a big part of my life. I have fond memories of putting Coz records on the turntable with Dad and listening to tales of go-karts, Superman, Noah, chicken hearts and ice cream. So when stories began to come out about a lifetime of sexual misconduct, it felt like a betrayal. Now, obviously, I’m old enough to know that stars don’t owe me a thing, but perhaps it was looking through the eyes of childhood, the whole thing left me with a Shoeless Joe moment, say it ain’t so. Cosby had been battling in the courts the last couple of years, so we all knew the sordid details, but perhaps it was through the lens of #metoo, a movement that has shown a bright light on some dark corners of celebrity behavior, that the entertainer finally ran out of lives.
Anthony Bourdain -- If you would have asked me who led what I would consider the ideal life for me, I would have said Anthony Bourdain. Rising from the kitchens of New York to travel the world, see things the rest of us dream of, taste foods across the globe, and to take all of us along for the ride. As a struggling journalist of limited means, his shows were the window to world travel I could only dream of. It was no secret there was a dark side to his personality, but that was part of the image. His death was a profound loss to me, though I won’t be so selfish not to say I hope he is at peace. But his suicide, along with that of designer Kate Spade, offer us all a stark warning. Our friends, the people we love, the face they put on for the world is the one they wish to present. Beneath the surface are feelings and emotions we cannot perceive without paying attention. I’ve been touched by suicide enough to know that the warning signs are there if we pay attention, but also to know there is only so much we can do. Still, I want to know I did everything I could.
Facebook -- I keep wondering if this is the year Facebook was really broken, or if it so entrenched in our lives that it will become the backbone of how we deal with the interwebs? One thing is for certain, over the past year reality has finally caught up to Zuckerberg’s dog and pony show, revealing the weaknesses of a Wild West, college infrastructure that has not kept up with the times. From being the avenue for viral, manipulative fake news to selling your private information to anyone who flashes a bit of cash, Facebook has not had a very good year. None of this ever surprised me, mind you. I mean, who would have thunk it? Putting your personal information, your friends, your pictures, your wants and desires out in the ether world is dangerous? People would steal that information? Seriously, everybody’s info is out there. No one is that far off the grid. Even the federal government has been hacked. Leaving Facebook won’t fix that. Of the people I know who have left, the majority have returned. Besides, what are the alternatives? I’ve yet to see one that is viable. So I guess I’ve answered my own question, haven’t I?
Capital Gazette -- As a journalist the majority of my working life, the mass shooting in late June at the Capital Gazette newspaper was a scenario I had feared for almost 20 years. Working in a business where it is your duty to shine a light on the dark recesses of humanity is bound to create enemies, it was only a matter of time before a bad actor took advantage of the open nature of a newspaper building. As I wrote at the time, if you ever worked in this business, you knew each of the victims, because you have worked with people just like them. The shooting serves as a centerpiece event for a year that has been incredibly hard on journalists, punctuated by the death of Jamal Khashoggi and the rhetoric of a President who labels many in the press as “enemies of the people.” Having been an editor, having diffused confrontations with angry subjects, and sending overworked, underpaid reporters out on assignments with unknown potentialities, caused me a lot of stress. To have people you know hammer “the fake news,” then assure you “not you, you are one of the good ones,” is a day I never expected to see when I went out on my first sports writing assignment. More than once, in anger, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and tell everyone where to go, but it’s who I am. When folks look at the long hours, the low pay, stress and slim chances of retirement, they don’t often get that those who stick in this business do so because it is a calling. As newspapers close and local governments take advantage of short handed staffs to push through questionable agendas in the shadows, it’s the few who remain who will continue to shine a light for us all.
Kavanaugh -- There was never any doubt when President Trump had the opportunity to make an appointment that would sway the delicate balance of the Supreme Court, it was going to be bloody. So naming a highly partisan candidate was only going to add gasoline to that dumpster fire. The revelation of accusations of sexual misconduct assured an opportunity for politicians on the right and left to grandstand. What did we learn? That we still really don’t believe women in these situations, that Brett Kavanaugh was a lot better at maintaining and saving calendars than I ever was, and that the boys at Georgetown Prep had an uncanny knack for naming drinking games after sexual acts in the Urban Dictionary. Coincidental? I heard enough to have a reasonable doubt that he was being fully truthful, but since no one on the panel, nor their plethora of millennial aides, seemed willing to call him on it, Kavanaugh squeezed through by the slimmest of margins. I maintain that Justice Kavanaugh has a flawed view on presidential immunity under the Constitution. We will likely get to see how that plays out in the next year or two.
Trump -- I know, it seems like a cop out, but how can you avoid the elephant in the room? Yes, I know, that was way too easy. Let’s review: Comparing nuclear buttons with Kim Jong Un; calling himself a “Very Stable Genius;” multiple government shutdowns, including furloughing federal workers at Christmas and denying them raises, all while pushing for a big, beautiful wall he promised Mexico would pay for but will now cost taxpayers billions; the Mueller probe; Stormy; Michael Cohen; Paul Manafort; firing the Secretary of State via a tweet; calling “his generals” failures when canning them; withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan (maybe, maybe not?); tariffs; trade wars; immigration; angering allies while embracing folks like Putin and Erdogan; getting laughed at during a United Nations speech; sending armed troops to the border; a track record of lies during stump speeches; and calling the press “enemies of the people.”
Whew... that’s enough for two years, isn’t it?
And so, it is time to close the book on 2018. This New Years Eve, I wish you and yours nothing but the best for 2019. May the new year bring you health and keep you safe, and may it continue to provide plenty of fodder for those of us who ramble for a living.