“I hope you had the time of your life.” Or so goes the chorus to the Green Day lyric “Good Riddance,” a bittersweet tune that speaks of “making the best of this test,” and let’s face it, most of us are being tested in one way or another right now. If New Year’s is about looking up and forward, then it must also have some component of looking back. And in doing so we might see that some of what we’ll be jettisoning in the New Year may likely be good for us.
Of course we’ll lose Bush and it would be tiresome and wrong for me to fill a column with anger about “The Dark Eight” as we may one day refer to the years of damage wrought by Bush and Cheney. Still, keep an eye out for my 2009 book, See You in The Hague, Hell Dogs! a fair and balanced look at the Bush administration.
Rather than grinding on all that, here’s a short list of things that might be going away in the coming year that we might not miss that much. While this sort of year-end column-writing is inevitable, so is the pain wrought by layoffs and downsizing when things end. Far from being glib about that suffering, we offer this list as part of a larger hope that in the New Year stronger ideas and needed changes bring prosperity and better days to all.
Sirius Radio is in serious trouble with one billion in debt and a nation of radio listeners that decided they wouldn’t pay for Howard Stern’s drivel. Sirius continues to foist itself into the dashboards of new cars, but you’ve read about what’s happening with new car sales. Satellite radio was yet another campaign to build premium content platforms for those who can pay for them, and I for one believe they militate against democracy by driving toward a “Let them eat cake” media environment. HBO has done some splendid work, and we can all catch up with it by renting the DVD’s … months later. Should a democracy have information and content delivery that’s just for wealthy people? Next thing you know, you’ll only be able to get health care if—Well, anyhow, looks like we’ll be saying goodbye to Sirius soon.
All Hail the Pontiac Aztec
Just a few weeks ago, my own car was passed in traffic by a Pontiac Aztec. And as that hunchbacked homunculus of car design pulled ahead, I could see a meter on the back of it providing a running tote of declining U.S. auto sales. Regardless of the exact amount of the bailout the automakers finally end up with, can we reasonably assume that a new era of common sense will replace the mentality that created so much unappetizing and, in some cases, ridiculous new car product in the past? Of course there are sights far sillier than a Pinto, Gremlin, or Pacer rolling down the road. For example, a single solitary passenger of about 90 pounds sitting behind the wheel of a black Dodge Ram 3500 hemi V8 pick-up truck and pulling into Whole Foods.
Celebrity and Hip
While visiting Wisconsin for the holidays, I was impressed by the fact that all of the syndicated ‘culture of celebrity’ TV shows (Access, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ) air after midnight. Airing in those weak hours in small markets could mean the distributors of that programming are selling those shows for peanuts to Midwestern affiliates. If so, we might conclude that when linked to the guest-starved talk formats and hick-intensive reality shows of “Recession Age” television programming, the entire industry of celebrity is about to tank. And if not, at least a boy can dream.
Also possibly on it’s way out is “hip” and specifically the notion that certain things must be adopted as a dimension of something called hip. Music is now such a pliable commodity, with new groups finding airplay on shampoo commercials sooner than on radio, that any taint of “selling out” has been replaced with an attitude that dissolves notions about in and out, hot or esoteric. Instead, we’re wearing clothes we like and listening to music we enjoy. Even ‘cool’ movies are struggling to find audience, not because they’re cool but because the idea that they are doesn’t carry much weight right now. “Hello, Tony Orlando? You’re coming back, baby!”
Greed and War
Money is always going to be popular, but what might be going away for a little while is the compulsion to turn fortune into bigger fortune and sweat the risk. Bernard Madoff has helped to sell a fresh perspective on investment that posits that anything looking too good to be true probably isn’t true. If our appetites for financial empire are curbed, and we all agree that Iraq has made us physically sick of war for empire and its toll in human suffering, then we might see greed and war take a little break in the near future. That alone would bode well for a Happy New Year.