It's just a few days before Christmas. I've always loved this time of year, partly because of the wonderful overlap of football and basketball, but also for all those other sappy reasons that people often cite.
This year has been yucky in so many ways. From little things like the 90-degree weather on Thanksgiving to gigantic things like the resurgence of open racism sanctioned by the White House, it's just been a bad year.
It looks like we're going to survive it, but we're Americans. We shouldn't have to survive anything. We should kick each and every year square in the butt and then say, "Bring on the next one." I even feel bad for real Republicans. If their ideas and policies are so great, they shouldn't have to hitch their wagons to a bully and a tyrant just to try to pass their agenda. We all deserve better.
Since it's also Festivus season, I'm going to do an end run around the Airing of Grievances and apologize to my good friend, Rob. We've worked together on basketball stuff for decades and for the longest time, he was blissfully apolitical. I would try to tell him something, and he would cut me short with an abrupt, "I don't know, and I don't care. It doesn't matter who is in charge. They're all the same."
Selfish bastard that I am, I kept at it and wore him down. Now, he's pretty much obsessed with politics and, therefore, he's just as miserable as the rest of us. Plus, he's sort-of-ethnic, which works like nitrous oxide when he gets going.
Rob isn't Catholic. But for the upcoming Lent, I'm going to try to have him give up starting sentences with, "Oh my God, did you see...?!"
Speaking of Lent, how's this for sucko timing? Ash Wednesday falls on St. Valentine's Day, so people are going to have to devour that entire box of chocolates before going to get their ashes.
Here are my suggestions for some last-minute gift giving.
Movies really stank this year. I heard that Wonder Woman was okay, but I didn't see it. I didn't want to be the old guy in the theater with a bunch of young kids watching a movie about Amazons. Neither did I want to go when the theater was full of guys who look like Kevin Smith and be the older, fatter version of Kevin Smith.
I liked Get Out and Baby Driver (for which Ansel Elgort is finally forgiven for The Fault In Our Stars). I really liked Wind River. Give it to yourself for Christmas.
• Books. I'm currently reading Bobby Kennedy by Chris Matthews. There's nothing new in it, but it does remind us of a time when politicians actually gave a crap. The most haunting book I read (and I highly recommend it) was Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.
In the early 20th Century, the Osage Indian nation sat on top of one of the richest oil fields in the world. Every member of the tribe was the equivalent of a millionaire. And then, through legal chicanery and murder, white people tried to steal it all. Compelling stuff.
• Music. I've always loved soul music and I have a special place in my musical heart for the blue-eyed variety of soul, mostly because I always dreamed of being a practitioner thereof. That is, until I found out that my "singing" voice sounds like a rabid wombat being run over by a garbage truck (with no muffler).
I knew at a very young age that Italian guys from New Jersey could sing doo-wop (is that ethnically insensitive?). And, if their shiny suit slacks were tight enough, they could also sing falsetto. But then I heard the Righteous Brothers and it was like, aw heck! Actually, the first Righteous Brothers song I ever head was "Little Latin Lupe Lu" (that's GOT to be ethnically insensitive!). The first time I heard them sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," the fatally compressed wombat came issuing forth.
After that, I developed a lifelong appreciation for white people trying to sing black music (which basically covers all popular music over the past 62 years except for "You Light Up My Life" and "The Piña Colada Song.") I was really impressed by the shockingly white people from across the pond who tried to do it, with varying levels of success. I've always loved Van Morrison and, over the decades, I listened to Tom Jones, Robbie Williams, George Michael and Mick Hucknall (Simply Red). Dusty Springfield (whose soul classic Dusty In Memphis is one of my all-time favorite albums) led to Lisa Stansfield, who gave way to Adele.
Which brings me to Sam Smith. Do you know how long I waited for a follow-up to Smith's debut album, In The Lonely Hour? Well, the answer is three years, just like everybody else. Finally comes The Thrill of It All and it's like...just okay. I like the song "Midnight Train," which has a 60s-ish churning-gospel feel to it, but everything else is...OK.)
Dude, we get it. You used to be fat, so you're constantly jonesing for cheeseburgers. You're gay, and you stink at relationships. But you're also a bazillionaire, and your vocal chords were personally touched by God. Quit your damn whining.
Merry Christmas, everybody.