Wednesday, January 28, 2009


(Originally posted on MySpace on Sunday, January 04, 2009)

Welcome to 2009. Let's hope it's a better year than 2008, although I'm not about to hold my breath waiting. I think this coming year will be a hard one for many people…probably even most people. I've had a few friends ask me how 2009 could be any worse than 2008. Just wait and see. I think the recession/depression is going to get much worse before it gets better, which will probably be a few years away. There are going to be few new jobs and as stores close due to lack of sales, there will be even fewer. That will make more people who can't pay their mortgages, so more people will find themselves homeless. Sorry to rain on the new President's "Hope" parade and I truly hope I'm wrong. We'll see if I'm proved to be mistaken, but I doubt it.

Obama's pissing me off already, but I'm going to try not to criticize him until he actually gets into office and shows his stuff. At the worst, I'm afraid he's going to be another Clinton, but even that will be better than four more years of Bush, which was what McCain offered. I'll be watching Obama with interest over these first six months or so and we'll see if he has it in him to actually get any change done. I hope so, but again, I doubt it.

But enough of this. It's a New Year and I should try to look on the positive side of things. This New Year promises a whole lot of change for Skip and me. Change always excites me, even while it fills me with dread. There are going to be a lot of things different this year, although I'm not prepared to talk about most of those things now. You'll probably here about them as they happen, if they happen. But the big change is our financial situation. We fully expect to run out of money sometime this year and join the ranks of Americans who have lost their homes to unscrupulous banks.

Now, I'm been saying this for a few years and it always seems that we find money someplace every time just as we're about to pack it in. Even this year we've received a few months reprieve due to Skip's auto accident. As I said before, the car was totaled and Skip was pretty banged up, although uninjured except for the bruises. When we first contacted our insurance agent we were told that we would get between $4,000 and $5,000 for it. But now we've received the final assessment and we're actually getting over $10,000 for it, after our deductable! This is really good news as it gives us enough money to fix up our old car so we can take it out of town and it enables us to stay in the house for another couple of months. With any luck, we'll make it into summer and possibly even through it depending on how much of this stuff we have sitting around our house that I can sell on the internet.

I'm not stupid or irresponsible enough to not admit that part of this money problem is our own fault. We travel a lot and we love expensive restaurants. But we look at it this way. We can not go to Argentina and then we'll save about $3000 (which is what a normal vacation costs us). That will allow us to stay in the house another month. So we have the choice of just staying here and losing the house anyways, although a month later, or we go to Argentina, which we won't get a chance to go to again that we know of. You know the choice we made. We both want to live our lives to the fullest while we're alive. I would rather die an early death and travel and eat great food than live a long life sitting in front of the TV and eating McDonalds. I already sit in front of the TV enough in my life. We've made a conscious choice to live the way we do and I don't regret a minute of it, even if we do end up homeless later this year. But like I said, we always seem to find our way to another year and I have faith that we'll do so again.

Of course, it would help if either of us could actually find a job. I mean, I could find a job at Wal-Mart or Home Depot, although I can make as much money doing what I'm doing now, selling things on the internet, so why bother? (The health insurance would help though and that's the one reason that may have me working at one of these soulless places later this year.) And again, we'll see if the government under Obama can help this situation.

In the meantime, we're not going to worry about it. The future will bring what it brings. I'm going to concentrate now on our upcoming visit to Italy in March during our 29th anniversary together. We're also planning a short trip to Arizona to visit my family at the end of this month if we can get our car fixed up enough to make it there. We'll probably spend a few days in Las Vegas as well if we can. I'm dying to eat Bobby Flay's food. After that, we have no concrete plans, which is weird since I usually have most of the year booked up at the beginning of January. But we'll have to wait and see what the situation is later this year. I would love to get to Thailand or even back to Argentina to visit the wine regions.

As for 2008, I usually fill this space with my year-end best of lists. My Top Friends list on my home page is full of things I liked in 2008, so you can check that out.

Every year for as long as I remember I've written a best-of music list. This is the first year I won't have one. The problem is that I didn't really listen to any records this year. I bought only 15 CDs in the last twelve months, which has to be a record for the least I've ever bought since I turned 16 years old. There's no real reason for this except I just didn't feel like buying more. I still hear lots of music I like; I just didn't get around to buying it. Here's what I did buy:

American Music Club – The Golden Age
B-52s – Funplex
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs
Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Continued The Fall – Imperial Wax Solvent Mark E. Smith (of the Fall) and Ed Blaney – Smith and Blaney Magnetic Morning – EP and A.M.
No Age – Nouns
Conor Orbest – Conor Orbest
Portishead – Third
Spiritualized – Songs in A & E
TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Wire – Object 47

I also picked up a promo-only Real Tuesday Weld retrospective that was released by their American publishing company.

With the exception of the two Fall albums (which are great) and the Wire CD (which I found disappointing on my one listening), I haven't taken the time to listen to any of them. I don't know why. For a whole year, I just haven't felt the need. In the meantime, I still go to lots of live shows and I listen to music on the radio (Indie103.1), TV (late night talk shows and NewNowNext on Logo) and on MySpace. It's because of this that I bought these albums when I heard something I really liked. Then I didn't listen to them. I also got a Zune for my birthday and now it just sits here on my desk. I haven't found the time to download any music into it. This has all got to change this year and I do resolve to make more time for the pursuit of music. Music has always been very important in my life and it still is. It's just that so many other things have become important as well, especially food, drink and travel. Film has also become more important to me, especially animated film. If I was in my teens now, I don't know if I would choose to pursue music any more. I think I may have chosen to go to cooking school or into animation instead. Both obsess me these days.

I can say that there is a lot I love on TV. My favorite TV shows this year were:

Comanche Moon
Pioneers of Television
Breaking Bad
Battlestar Galactica
30 Days
Long Way Down
Mad Men
The Shield
Sons of Anarchy

I also quite like Chuck, Heroes, My Own Worst Enemy, Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles, Samantha Who, Fringe, Top Chef, Top Design, Project Runway, Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Ugly Betty, Survivor, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Desperate Housewives, Lipstick Jungle, Kyle XY, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Nip/Tuck, Damages, Psyche, Burn Notice, Californication, Medium, Amazing Race, Reaper, and a whole lot more that I just can't remember now. I watch way too much TV and will probably continue to do so through 2009. I think most of these shows are at least as good as movies that showed up in theatres this year.

As for movies, I'll discuss those at the end of February, just before the Academy Awards broadcast. That gives me time to catch up on several movies I still want to see before I set my list in stone.

My favorite meals this year, in no particular order, were at:

Chung King
Destrito (Philadelphia)
Foundry on Melrose
Il Moro
Incanto (San Francisco)
Napa Rose
Osteria Mozza
Palate Food & Wine

And just about every meal in Buenos Aires.

I only had time to read two and a half books this year and since the only new book I read was by my friend Paula Yoo, I have to say that the best book I read this year was her young adult novel "Good Enough". It really was great and it probably would have ended up on a top ten list if I would have read more than ten books. (I bought two other new books this year. "Maps and Legends" by Michael Chabon and "The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America" by David Hajdu. But I haven't had time to read either of them.)

That's about it. I'm just going to sit back and watch as our new year develops. Even in my cynicism I'm hoping for the best. After the last eight years, it would be wonderful if this one would finally be a good one from beginning to end.

Of course, I can't let a new year present itself without a rant. Right now there's something that's particularly bugging me and I should just get it out before it grows and festers.

I'm really bothered by the newest trend in reinterpreting words. This new reinterpretation seems to have flowed from the pro-Proposition 8 crowd and I've just about had enough of it.

First of all, this comes from many of the black voters who voted to pass the proposition. It seems that many of these voters don't think that gay rights falls under the civil rights banner. They seem to think that civil rights means black rights and that's were it ends. I read one voter say something like "Civil rights is about jobs, not about your sexual choices". Others have expressed dismay at gays fighting for their rights being compared to the black struggle. Hey, it's not like gays have ever lost jobs for being who they are. It's not like gays have ever been killed for being who they are. Our struggle is nothing like their struggle.

These people need to grow up and join the real world. There are fundamental differences between the gay rights struggle and the black rights struggle, but at the core, they are both for the same thing. Both struggles are for the right to live as you are born, the same as every other person supposedly has the right to. This denial of gay rights as civil rights reminds me of the whole "blacks can't be racist" arguments that were around a decade or so ago. That argument was stupid and it thankfully died out rapidly. Hopefully this new argument will die out just as rapidly because it's not based on anything except bigotry.

This brings us to the biggest thing bugging the hell out of me. That's the argument that religious people are not bigots just because they are against gay rights. They argue that it's all about religious freedom and not based on bigotry at all. That argument is, of course, bullshit at its finest. The "American Heritage Dictionary" defines a bigot as: "One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ." Webster's Dictionary defines a bigot as: "a person who is intolerant of opinions which conflict with his own, as in politics or morals; one obstinately and blindly devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion". Both of these definitions, and many more I looked up on other dictionaries, all describe these religious people who now claim they aren't bigots at all. Again, they need to join the real world. Religion isn't an excuse. A bigot is a bigot and no amount of crying about religious freedom is going to change that. You can't change the definition just because you don't like that it applies to you.

And that brings me to one positive thing that has come out of the passing of Proposition 8. For years now I've been decrying the passiveness of our so called gay leaders. The Human Rights Campaign and Geoffrey Kors of Equality California have especially pissed me off with their seemingly "let's be nice" attitude towards protest. The passing of Proposition 8 has proved that attitude to be as wrong and ineffectual as I've been saying it was for the better part of the last decade. And now these gay leaders are on the way out, replaced by a slew of young queers who understand how the world really works and are willing to take it on forcefully. These new leaders are also not afraid to reach out to those black and Hispanic voters who are still living in the dark ages, to get them to realize that unless everyone is free, no one will be free. The older guard seemed to fear these people and excluded them from every plan they came up with. This "changing of the guard" is a very positive thing and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the gay rights struggle with these new people leading the charge.

Okay. That's enough for this week. Next week I plan to finally get to those Thin White Rope in Lithuania stories I've been promising for several months now. I'm going to try to get to road stories more often in the future. Until then, thanks for reading and enjoy your life. Let's keep our fingers crossed for this New Year and hope for the best.

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