Every year I compile a list of my favorite and least favorite things about that year, just for giggles, and for future perspective, just to get it on the record. This year, much to the chagrin of everyone reading this, shall be no different.
- Fatherhood. This is kind of a no-brainer, but I’ve gotten so much joy out of it this year that it’s worth mentioning again. I’m a stay-at-home dad, so I’ve been here for the first steps, the emergence of “daddy” as the most frequently-spoken word (with “doggy” coming in a close second), and the emergence of real live smiles and laughter. I’ve also been here for the tantrums and crying fits, holding the little guy down at the doctor’s office and watching him get his shots, the inevitable cuts and scrapes, having to be a big meanie dishing out discipline, and the semi-frequent suggestions from certain family members that I’m a lazy bum who isn’t doing a damn thing. There are upsides and downsides to it, but as my son has grown from a helpless little thing who requires my assistance for the bare necessities of survival into a person of his own, it’s the good things that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life. And as for the folks who think I should be getting off my butt and “getting a real job” – this is a more exhausting, demanding job than anything you’ve ever punched a clock for. It’s 24/7. There’s no vacation time. There’s no one to fill in when I’m sick. There’s no way to say “Oh, man. I just don’t feel like changing dirty crappy diapers. Can someone else do this?” Go stand at the back of the line, take a new number, and call me when you have a real, valid criticism. Especially in light of…
- PDF DVD: A-OK. When one shoots one’s nearly-20-year broadcasting career between the eyes and stays home with the baby, one doesn’t expect to be the breadwinner – except, of course, that the way that broadcast pays in this market, I was never the breadwinner anyway. At any rate, I didn’t even really expect to contribute financially. In late March of this year, I was invited to a video and computer game-related event in OKC at the end of April, and for some reason I got the wild notion that I was going to buckle down and finally finish the eternally-in-the-works Phosphor Dot Fossils DVD that I’d been working on in fits and starts since 2004. I was going to see if, oh, maybe a couple of dozen people would buy it, either at the show or on the internet. Imagine my surprise when a lot of people bought it. As rough as the edges are on that DVD, and as much as I could pick it apart or criticize it to bits, it actually brought in a healthy amount of money this year. At first it was fun money, and then my wife ran into major vehicle problems and suddenly it was bringing in decent money at a time when we would’ve bled to death on a single income. It fed Evan, bought diapers, and fed us too, numerous times. So much for that job I need to get off my butt and go get – with the way things have gone this year, this was probably a more surefire gig than anything else I could’ve been doing. Did it bring in as much as my old TV job used to? No. I’m not going to pretend it did. But it kept us afloat and it allowed me to stay home with my son, and provided a creative outlet at a time when I easily could’ve gone crazy from being stuck at home. I’m not gonna knock that. I’ll be lucky if the second one does nearly as well, but you know what? The equipment I use to make it is paid for. The only expense incurred is blank DVDs and the electric bill. There really isn’t much risk in trying, and in continuing to find new things to do along the same lines (I’m hoping to get not only a second Phosphor Dot Fossils DVD but also a book – though on a different topic – done in 2009). I’m as surprised as anyone that I was able to make a buck (and at a critical time too) with this combination of all my silly hobbies, but I’m pleased it came about. It’s very easy, when you’re staying at home with a chaotic creature like a toddler, who can make a mockery of any attempt to impose a schedule on your day, to begin to let structure and urgency slide. I used to have a job that was wall-to-wall deadlines…and now I don’t. Having a timetable of publishing projects, either DVD or print projects, with the intention of trying to meet that timetable, introducing a new project to take up the slack when the previous one has run its course, has brought a little bit of much-needed structure back to my world.
- Obama-rama. Maybe this doesn’t really deserve to be in third place, because it is a big deal, but speaking as someone who watched Obama speak at the 2004 DNC and instantly wished that this charismatic, obviously intelligent fellow was running instead of Kerry, I really feel like the good guys won this round. I don’t think he’s a flawless panacaea to all of the nation’s problems, or the world’s problems. But Barack Obama has a participatory view of democracy that might lead to all of us being part of that remedy. That’s the kind of thinking that I think has been lost in recent years/decades as the American political dialogue has descended into polarized, party-based cults of personality (on both sides) and discussions that now resemble an unholy marriage of pre-programmed talking points and pro wrestling trash talk. I’m under no illusion that these things will all be fixed in four years’ time…but I do have a strong feeling that we’re about to be under the leadership of a man who understands that it’s not just his job and his alone to turn things around. It takes everyone. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me on this – the smear machine was out in full force and full ridiculous ugliness this time around, to the degree that I was honestly surprised that the election wasn’t much, much closer – but in fairness, let’s give the guy a chance. And let’s stop walking around on eggshells too: just because you’re not in agreement with the future President doesn’t make you a racist. If nothing else, the next four years will force that topic into the open for deeper analysis too…and that’s probably not a bad thing.
- Absent friends. I hate losing old friends, especially of the four-legged variety, and 2008 was an especially painful year for that. I’d been with Othello for a long time, so while losing him was a hammer blow to my gut, it wasn’t something that was absolutely impossible. Hannah, on the other hand…that just wasn’t meant to happen. She was too young in human or horse terms. Every time I go to the farm and she isn’t there, the back of my brain just screams this isn’t right. I can’t put it any more succinctly than that.
- Obama-rama II. Wait, what? This is also in the bad category? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for the man. But I’ve lost buckets of respect for the tactics used by a great number of people to try to discredit him in ways that had nothing to do with his political platform, and we’re talking about quite a spectrum of folks – from friends of mine who I thought would damn well know better than to stoop to barely-veiled racism (and who damn well should know better than to try to justify it), to attention-whoring conservative radio talkers who are now acting like they’re running the underground resistance against some kind of takeover of the country. I will acknowledge this: the choosing of our next leader is important, but we need to drag this country’s level of political dialogue, kicking and screaming though it may be, back toward issues and away from bullet points and the kind of ad hominem attacks that would’ve gotten folks kicked off the debate squad when I was in high school. And even though it favored the candidate I wound up choosing, I was deeply disturbed that nearly every segment of the mass media seemed to choose sides this time around. Dear media: that’s not what you’re there for. Be a barometer of public opinion, by all means, but don’t attempt to be a political tastemaker. 2008 proved that political dialogue in this country is broken – badly broken. Now the question is – as it is with so many other current issues – are we going to collectively do something to fix it, or just sit back, watch the train wreck again in a couple of years, and fling poo at each other once more?
I consciously steered away from pop culture on my best/worst of list here; it just seems like 2008 was dealing with weightier stuff than that…and besides, there’s still the end-of-the-year podcast-o-rama thingie for that sort of stuff…though with the way my throat’s been lately, everyone’ll probably thing I’m trying to sound like House.
I also have to give a runner-up “good” mention to the discovery of Facebook. I’m reluctant to give this a berth on the list because I’m still a new convert to the book o’ the face, but I’m really enjoying it thus far; I’ve all but stopped going to Myspace. I explained it to someone else a few weeks ago this way: remember, in the late 90s heyday of pre-sued-out-of-existence Napster, how awesome it was to have this one central resource to go to where you were nearly sure to find anything you were looking for? To stretch an internet analogy to its snapping point, Facebook is to social networks what old-school Napster was to file-sharing: I’ve run into many more of my friends here, and many more people who either aren’t on Myspace or are unfindable on Myspace. Facebook doesn’t seem like it’s aimed at ADHD-addled tweens, whereas Myspace does come across that way sometimes. The goofy extra features like the virtual Star Wars figure trading app, Scrabble and D&D Tiny Adventures are kind of neat, especially when they work (I’ve gotten a few invites to things that just never seem to work for me), but even at their worst they’re not as annoying as, say, Myspace layouts drenched with virtual “bling” and busy backgrounds that completely obliterate any legible text that may or may not be on the screen. I’m hooked on the ‘book, and I’m not even remotely sheepish about it – in my situation, it’s a sanity-saving link to the outside world. And it’s just plain fun to see what old friends from school or several workplaces ago are up to, and to litter everyone’s status updates with godawful puns. Good times.
Here’s hoping everyone has a good 2009 despite all the dire predictions. Remember, by the time you’ve finished reading this sentence, the future has begun.