Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: Winners and Losers

And so here it is, New Year's Eve, and it's time for me to choose the winners and losers of the year.  Normally, this is something I look forward to, but 2017 was a year where separating the wheat from the chaff was extremely difficult.  In fact, I think I spent more time separating chaff from a higher-quality grade of chaff.  It was a year that began with a black President who fulfilled the promise of the civil rights legislation pushed by Lyndon Johnson, replaced nineteen days into the year by the worst President for people of color since Andrew Johnson.  Not to mention the worst President of all time for everyone else, except his fellow nouveau-riche vulgarians and his vieux-riche enablers.  Women who'd thought we'd see a woman in the Oval Office come January 20 saw their rights eroded by January 21, and feminism was dead . . . until the trickle of news reports about Harvey Weinstein became a flood of sexual deviants that got flushed out of Hollywood and Washington, as well as the New York press.  Another destructive force named Harvey flooded Houston with water, a storm named Irma ravaged Florida, and Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in the dark for months (some of it is still without power) and dimmed the already low-wattage bulb in Trump's head.
How do you find winners in this loser of a year?  Well,  I actually found some.  As always, I try to pick winners and losers from a varied field of topics - music, TV, business . . . but the Hollywood sex scandals made my choices from the topic of movies problematic.  But I found a couple of choices.  And sports?  I seemed to lean too much on sports this time last year - the Olympics and all that - but this time I was able to keep my choices narrow, and the choice for the biggest sports loser was easy to make.  And surprisingly, it is not from the NFL.
So, without further ado, I give you my choices for the winners and losers of 2017.  First, the winners: 
Bette Midler. The divine Miss M's performance as Dolly Levi in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! was the biggest hit on the New York theater scene, with people rushing to the premiere the day after a snowstorm and continuing to rush to every show thereafter.  Ads for this production of Hello, Dolly! never feature scenes from the performance - only title cards and a voice-over.  The fact that it was a hit without the benefit of anyone seeing a sample of it is a testament to Midler's talent.  Bernadette Peters takes over from Bette in January.
the Houston Astros.  Baseball's Astros did more then win their first World Series ever. They won as the home team of a city still reeling from Hurricane Harvey's wrath and lifted up a lot of spirits.  It's the 2017 version of the Chicago Cubs' World Series win, the feel-good sports story of the year.

Gal Gadot.  The Israeli actress has played Wonder Woman thrice - and her solo movie Wonder Woman, while it may not make women who had a childhood in the seventies forget Lynda Carter, will certainly make a new generation of girls remember Gal Gadot. 
Greta Gerwig.  Her companion TV series for "How I Met Your Mother," "How I Met Your Dad," failed to get picked up, but everything does indeed happen for the best. Hollywood's hottest director-actress went back to making movies and raised the bar for female movie directors - and may have gotten her peers to be taken more seriously - when her movie Lady Bird, a coming-of-age story starring Saoirse Ronan, set a new record for the most consecutive "Fresh" reviews without any "Rotten" reviews against it on the Rotten Tomatoes movie Web site - 164 and counting.
Ralph Northam and Doug Jones.  Could it be that the Democratic Party will rise again in the South?  Northam was expected to barely win the Virginia governorship and won it handily.  Doug Jones barely won the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama after not being expected to win at all.  Beating the odds against the Trump juggernaut (Phil Murphy isn't included here because everyone knew he was going to win the governorship of New Jersey anyway), Democrats Northam and Jones stopped all that talk about the Democrats going full Whig and dying (okay, I was wrong).  The Democrats were merely playing possum.  
Emmanuel Macron.  Not only is France's new president as popular among is own people as Donald Trump is not, he is aiming to re-invigorate the country with his domestic reforms and is poised to become the new de facto leader of Europe . . . and become the world leader on fighting climate change.
Dan Fogelman.  The creator of "This Is Us" has every reason to smile.  He has the most intricate, most complex, and most satisfying family drama on American television.  
Journalism.  Thanks to Donald Trump, no friend of a free press, the news business is thriving.  More Web sites and print and broadcast media report on Trump's antics.  The New York Times and the Washington Post have seen their circulations and subscriptions go up. And people are learning how to spot fake news - they simply look at what Trump says are fake-news outlets and can trust those outlets as being legitimate. :-D 
Joe Biden.  Helped by name recognition, which Martin O'Malley lacked in 2016, the ability to talk to the working class, which Hillary Clinton certainly lacked in 2016, and a lifelong commitment to the Democratic Party, which Bernie Sanders has lacked for all time, Uncle Joe is now a major prospect for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination despite the fact that he will be 78 in 2020.  A Biden victory in 2020 would not just make him the oldest President ever; it would make him the first and likely only member of his generation (the Silent Generation, those Americans too old to have been at Woodstock and too young to have been at the Normandy landing) to win the White House.
New York rock radio.  After five years, the Greater New York area finally got another mainstream modern-rock radio station, filling a void left by the demise of WRXP-FM in 2012.  Classic rock of the past is all good and fine, but modern rock represents the present, and having Alt 92.3 is crucial to ensuring that rock has a future.
And now, the losers:  
Rock and roll.  Don't let the return of modern rock to commercial New York radio fool you; rock is still in pretty rough shape.  It's not just because of the deaths of John Wetton, Chuck Berry, Gregg Allman, Walter Becker, Pat DiNizio, Chris Cornell, Tom Petty, and Fats Domino this past year.  It's because rock keeps losing its audience to rap at an alarming clip.  Nothing demonstrates that more than Chance the Rapper winning the 2017 Best New Artist Grammy, rock being shut out of most of the major Grammy nominations for 2018 (rap dominates the Album of the Year nominees), and LL Cool J getting a Kennedy Center honor (and not for his acting).   
the U.S. men's soccer team.  When the Atlanta Falcons lost this year's Super Bowl to the Patriots by a narrow margin after leading by a wide one through the start of the fourth quarter, I didn't see how any team in any sport could choke worse in 2017.  Then the United States men's national soccer team - the team that never disappoints at being disappointing - blew a berth in the 2018 World Cup by losing a key match to Trinidad and Tobago, making their Gold Cup win earlier this year as meaningless at the Falcons' NFC championship.  We pay our men's soccer team too much - more than the women, who win as often as the men lose - and personally, I don't think we should pay them at all.  They're an even bigger embarrassment to America  than Donald Trump.      
the Internet.  The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of Net neutrality will result in higher costs and greater censorship for folks who use the Internet - that is, everyone - and reflects our government's view of media as a private business rather than a public service.  Pray for the success of pending lawsuits against the FCC for this.    
Harvey Weinstein and company.  I'm not going to make a list of the men whose careers were ended by sexual misconduct, because this post is long enough without one.  I will, however, mention Jeremy Piven, if only because his TV series "Wisdom Of the Crowd" would still be one of the biggest TV flops of the year even without the misconduct charges against him.
Tom Cruise.  The star of the new version of The Mummy had the biggest career meltdown of any actor not charged with sexual misconduct, thanks to The Mummy's meltdown at the box office. It's a wrap!  
Greta Van Sustren.  The Fox News commentator began 2017 as the host of a new MSNBC program in an effort by the left-leaning cable channel to diversify its points of view.  She ended it as ex-MSNBC commentator, her program "For the Record" having been cancelled after five months, and doing commentary for Voice of America, a radio station meant for folks outside America.  So much for "diversity."  Incidentally, I have a feeling that Megyn Kelly will be on my losers list for 2018.    
the environment.  The Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, began promoting coal as a fuel of the future, and is currently eviscerating the Environmental Protection Agency to keep it from protecting the environment.  Toxic sludge, anyone?   
the Republican National Committee.  One could argue that the Democratic National Committee had a bad year.  After all, its choice of Tom Perez as its chairman was not well-received by progressives, its messaging remains a joke, and it has a 0-4 record in winning U.S. House special elections for 2017.  And, it's broke.  But the DNC is seeing new-found energy after the November and December elections, and it was at least partially instrumental in Doug Jones' special Senate election win in in Alabama.  The Republican National Committee is on this list because it resumed backing Jones's GOP opponent Roy Moore despite believable pedophila charges aginst him and took a big hit to its integrity when Moore lost.  Also, at least Tom Perez - unlike the RNC's chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel - is well-known. The only thing worse than being talked about is . . .
Barack Obama. Legacy?  What legacy?
And finally . . .
the United States of America.  We let Donald Trump become President, and as a result, we are the skunk of the earth.  We are an environmental outlaw, we are callous toward immigrants and toward our own poor people, we express hostility toward different minorities, we are culturally and intellectually impoverished, and we have bigotry and hatred as the cornerstones of our relations with the rest of the world.  And while we have always been a foolish people in many ways, this time it's different - because Trump, as President, has codified and sanctified our worst behavior.  What James Howard Kunstler said in 1996 is even more true today - we Americans are a wicked people who deserve to be punished.
I nominate Debbie Wasserman Schultz to be punished first.    
Primary the shrew!
Well, that's my list of winners and losers for 2017.  My inclusion of my own country on this list may be harsh, but I can come to no other conclusion that these United States lost big time. We lost our decency, we lost our credibility and we lost our minds.
Right.  Let's hope 2018 is - ahem - better.

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