2012 YearEnder

A tradition for me over the course of the past ten years has been to send out an annual email to friends and colleagues filled with shtick meant to summarize the year in the rear-view mirror. I've held back the personal sections in what follows below. But this is otherwise what spilled out in my 10th Annual YearEnder. I hope you enjoy it.

2012 As A Series Of Snapshots
- Mitt Romney lost. Michael Dukakis gleefully handed over the "Worst Candidate Ever" sash and tiara. Ann Romney regretted ever bothering to learn the names of their gardeners, housekeepers, chauffeurs, stable hands, dog groomers, elevator operators, moat diggers, and son wranglers.
- Lance Armstrong got outed years after taking countless performance enhancing drugs and doing every ugly thing possible to deny it. Finally affirming what so many had known for so long - that guy's got real ball.
- The UK politely hogged the spotlight through much of the year. London's Summer Olympics unfolded famously well, while the tabloid paper "News of the World" folded poorly. Kate & Will went topless, then got pregnant. Andy Murray actually wins something, the real Queen and the new James Bond earn raves, "Downton Abbey" thrilled the equivalent of PBS tote-baggers in 100 countries.
- The prematurely lionized David Petraeus got blown off the road to the White House in 2016 after news of an affair with his crazily fit and creepy biographer came to light. The entire gallery of flawed characters largely faded from memory by year's end. Yet the buried lead still stands out for me - one driven, often shirtless FBI agent pulled off a professional hack of the CIA Director's email. Welcome to the New Normal.
- Big Bird was the most discussed "Sesame Street" character this campaign cycle. Besting the usual top Muppet, Grover Norquist.
- "50 Shades of Gray" by E.L. James became the biggest publishing phenomenon since the "Twilight" series. Millions rejoiced in the practice of openly reading porn in public.
- Facebook's IPO flopped. Mark Zuckerberg quickly got married. The things some people do to come up with ever more clever status updates.
- NASA pulled off a stunning landing of their "Curiosity" rover on Mars in the same year they mothballed their Space Shuttle fleet to star in a series of commercials for Toyota.
- Sandra Fluke's birth controlling zeal offended Rush Limbaugh. Leaving him no choice but to not-so-subtly mention her youth and sexual self-empowerment. It was all just a big misunderstanding. Because inside Rush's head, it started out sounding like a compliment.
- The flaming cartwheel of horrors in Syria finally drove the community of Nations to intervene militarily. Didn't we? Really...not yet? Wow, we suck.
- The U.S. Postal Service threatened to shut down thousands of small town offices while a paralyzing drought this past summer decimated crops across huge swaths of America. Thankfully, the U.S. Congress stepped in and helped people where and when they needed it most.
- Gun control was on everyone's mind after an unthinkable tragedy. Then a metaphorical squirrel ran by, causing the nation to lose focus. But then gun control was on everyone's mind after an unthinkable tragedy. And then a metaphorical squirrel ran by...
- Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's previously unnoticed genius with ad copy was revealed when he coined the phrase "fiscal cliff" and thereafter changed how we all looked at...I'm not sure, floor wax or something. Doesn't matter, really. The important point being that Bernanke is Don Draper. 
- The Mayan calendar's much anticipated date for the end of the world passed without incident. Presenting the worst forecasting job since the collective freakout about Tropical Storm Issac scuttled the opening of the GOP's National Convention in Tampa.
- Felix Baumgartner jumped out of a hot-air balloon 24 miles above the Earth, pulled himself out of a death-spin while accelerating to speeds over 800 miles/hour, landed safely and became an international hero. Amazing. But his 84-year-old "coach" free fell for 17 seconds longer when he jumped from the previous record height of 19 miles. In 1960. Who the heck is that guy? No, not Hugh Hefner.
- The Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that "Obamacare" should stand. Opponents prepared to target the thing next closest to Obama's heart and legacy. So all you fans of "Bracketology"...you heard it here first.
- The tragic killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya became a means by which some asked hard questions about the loss of life in foreign danger zones. Wouldn't it be nice if some small part of that outrage could be focused upon the 310 Americans killed in Afghanistan just in 2012?
- Much of the northeastern U.S. suffered through the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy. One bright spot appeared for some when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's brash and candid style elevated speculation of his future viability on the national stage. Reaction to his stance on that stage was already tested prior to the 2012 Election. Is this sounding like a series of subtle fat jokes? Sure, Christie's what some might generously call "a little husky." But the YearEnder works best when it doesn't sink to that level. Although once you lean that way, pretty much everything starts sounding like a rip. See what I mean?

Comeback of the Year
The NFL's regular referees returned to work after an inglorious lockout. Prior to them coming back to work, the much maligned replacement refs had a thankless job. Which is why I won't thank them.
Lexicon Addition of the Year
Acronyms really failed us this year. I saw their unattributed ubiquity as a wave that broke in all sorts of directions. A few of the most egregiously overused and under-explained examples were YOLO, LIBOR, and SOPA. It's been a very long time since I went to journalism school, but even I remember that part of the job is to provide the appropriate context every time a new acronym is used. As much as I'm entertained by texting lexicon entering the mainstream, too much is too often left for the reader/listener to find on their own after the fact. KWIM?
Trend of the Year
Kickstarter blossomed as a means of crowd sourcing artists across a wide spectrum of proposed projects. While it certainly shouldn't be expected to fully replace the legitimate role of other private - and, yes, public - funding for the arts, this avenue exist added an option for creatively proposed projects. Abuses and bad ideas occasionally get teed up. The overall trend, however, rose to be accepted as a net positive.

A Few Picks For My Favorites of 2012
TV - "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" might seem like a rather pedestrian pick, given all the inspired shows that kept on rolling along impressively this past year. But Jimmy's uncanny good musical impressions and boundless likeability make him my fave this year. I even let our 7-year-old daughter occasionally watch him play games with guests and some of his crew's instantly classic skits. Of which there were many. This show should only get better as they step forward and beyond the usual formula.
Music - It was a great year for things both Northwest-y and indie - two of my favorite musical flavorings. Which is partly why I've settled upon Seattle's own Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for this year's fave with their independently produced album "The Heist". Unceasingly "posi" - that's "positive" which can be an insult but shouldn't be. Filled with hooks and catchy beats. I met Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) at a lit event two years back after he slayed a cold room full of folks who wouldn't know hip hop from head cheese. No offense. Really liked him then, love him now. Bonus points for the lyrics on "Thrift Shop" and the timely sentiment behind the anthemic "Same Love".
Books - An exceptional year for fiction. Yet no "book" did more to push the physical and conceptual boundaries of how to tell stories than Chris Ware's "Building Stories". Ware packaged 14 separate graphics and text experiments in a box that looks like a board game. The characters can get mopey and his intricate drawings might have you looking for a magnifying glass, but the stories unfold like mysteries with no beginning or end. For those looking beyond the conventional, I can think of no better ground-breaker from the past year's releases.
Film - For all the prestige films left to be seen at year's end, I doubt that I'll find a tastier treat than Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom". Young love never felt so weirdly authentic. Everyone's great and not a detail is out of place in this fully realized alterna-world.
Person o' the Year - Nate Silver. Not only did he completely nail the entire election in terms of predictions, he wrote a best-seller that makes statistics seem entirely cool. For all the time spent discussing polling numbers in politics, it's quite refreshing to take stock of who gets those numbers right. Silver nailed it, with a humbling lack of spin.
Live Performance - I saw my first live story slam put together by the good folks at "The Moth" in NYC this past October. The energy absorbed from this amateur storytelling competition led to a pair of my many New Year's Resolutions: 1) Always throw my name in the hat, no matter what's at stake and 2) Never show up to an open mike without at least something prepared. The larger point being you should love "The Moth" and I hope you soon get the chance to experience one of their shows live.
Audio - A recent but already white-hot podcast love affair of mine is with Julie Klausner - a fellow ginge and the truly hilarious host of "How Was Your Week". This podcast might just hipcheck aside all those allegedly funny shows coming from comics who couldn't hold Klausner's hair while she hurls a steady stream of culturally astute awesomeness. Very New York-y, best when she's just riffing right off the top before her interviews, not for everyone but oh-so-perfect for many. Including me.
Sports - R.A. Dickey is a baseball pitcher who won 2012's National League's Cy Young Award, published a memoir, starred in a documentary about his favorite pitch, and consistently entertained me whenever he did press for those or other endeavors. Because knuckleballers make so many baseball people nervous, the New York Mets traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. Which gives me one more cool Canadian thing to root for in 2013. The story of Dickey's evolution proved as refreshing and unique as any in sports this past year.
Killer App - "Made in the USA" became more than just words on a label for me in 2012. If Apple can feel the heat and subsequently move some manufacturing back home, that kind of pressure on American corporations must have legs going forward. I believe that appeals to this sort of patriotic pride can cut across the biggest political divides we have. So long as the products rock. I think that app works on whatever platform you might prefer.

2013's Not-entirely Baseless Predictions
- Even if the idea was stolen from a very clever musician, the game "Rate 5 Things" becomes the Nation's new favorite pastime. Here's how you play:  list five unconnected things and rank them in order. Up, down, by weight, height, karmic value - you and your friends are the unimpeachable judges in this competition. "Rate 5 Things" is part clever-off, part Rorschach test, and can be all sorts of fun. Here's a suggested test grouping to limber you up - Earl Grey tea, a monocle, Samuel L. Jackson, a hammock, and Kansas City. Got it? Well...you will with practice. Oh, and I plan to ascend the ranks of the newly formed Rank Professional League (RPL or "Ripple") and compete for the RPL's inaugural National Championship.
- Iran's Presidential election in June results in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being forced from office due to term limits. He begins the transition to a new role in Iranian society - morning talk show host and style maven.
- "Maker" culture and the widening practice of using increasingly accessible technology like 3D-printers and laser cutters to, well...make stuff crosses over from the geeky fringe to the mainstream. Soon everyone will be inspired to "print" little epoxy dinosaurs and two-inch-tall Eiffel Towers for their junk drawers and workplace window ledges.
- Silvio Berlusconi returns to the job of Italian Prime Minister. Proving yet again that he truly is political herpes.
- In a rare example of successful group therapy, the simple advance of time vastly thins the ranks of triskaidekaphobiacs (those fearing the number 13). A lobbying effort to properly rename the 13th floors of countless hotels takes hold. However, the burgeoning confidence of triskaidekaphiliacs goes a step too far. Their desire for a National Holiday (on 13/13/13 meant to build upon the informal success of the 11/11/11 and 12/12/12 celebrations in the past few years) manages to only pass the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Clint Eastwood gets so sick of people making empty chair jokes at his expense that he decides to turn into the skid. He opens an unfinished furniture store in Carmel with the game changing idea of incorporating a paint-it-yourself cafe and gallery. "Eastwood's Paint Your Wagon" is a concept store that both softens his increasingly irascible side and lets the public in on his secret love of DIY home decor. By year's end, hugely successful franchises have opened in 14 States and two Canadian Provinces. In a change of faith, Clint chooses to donate all the proceeds to philanthropic causes, steers away from politics, and smiles every time he sits down on one of the new stools he painted to match the color of the marble on his breakfast bar as he looks out at the Pacific.
- Members of the Russian protest band Pussy Riot license their name and trademark balaclavas to the band One Direction for the massive re-branding needed for a rushed second album.
- Paul Ryan's wounded pride from people poking fun at his little lie back on the campaign trail about running a marathon in "two fifty something" pushes him to train and aim for entry in the Boston Marathon. He gets really bad shin splints and a mild case of plantar fasciitis, but still manages a respectable 3:48 and change in a flat, late-summer qualifying marathon. When he learns he's still over 30 minutes slower than Boston's qualifying time for his age group, Ryan eliminates Medicare and Medicaid funding for all of Massachusetts in a hidden line-item tucked into a Commerce Department budget rider. Then he lies about it, claiming he has a wedding the weekend of the Marathon back in Wisconsin so he couldn't run that stupid, liberal race anyways.
- The season finale of "Buckwild" (MTV's latest reality show phenomenon) garners the highest ratings for any program in the history of basic cable television. West Virginia's Tourism Board reports an annual 200% increase in first-time visitors, while the state's hospital emergency rooms bemoan a 350% increase in patient visits for the year.
- The African warlord Kony stages a comeback when he's paid handsomely by Donald Trump to search for Obama's ancestors in Kenya.
- Justin Bieber finally lends his monumental Twitter influence to a political issue away from his Canadian homeland. The Bieb implores his minions to call their "congresspeeps" after stepping up to the mike with the following debate changing Tweet: "det ceiling haters. democrats, republicrats - lets come together and raise tha roof. #momoneylesproblems #BELIEVE" Immaculately, the debt extension passes.
- The future looks bright for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Not only does he get to show off his nation's improved status with a G20 Summit in September, and jauntily prepare to host the Winter Olympics in early 2014. This year Putin also woos back home a trophy wife that all of Mother Russia embraces - Anna Kournikova.
- Kim Jong Un leaves the family business, after being approached to collaborate on an album with South Korean pop personality Psy (whose "Gangham Style" became the biggest viral video of all time in 2012). Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen ("Call Me Maybe" was equally ubiquitous this past year) is brought in to lend her talents on one song, but instead falls in love with what she sees and hears happening in the studio. The resulting album is an international sensation. In turn, their home countries sign a trade agreement that directly leads to the North Korean people being saved from the previously intractable cycle of drought and famine. This new power trio appear to be shoo-ins for the Nobel Peace Prize by year's end.


Which somewhat sadly brings me to the end of this thing. Meaning what you've seen here is not only my 10th YearEnder in the series. This is the last one I plan to write. My YearEnder Ender, if you will. It's certainly been an exercise that I've enjoyed, and the replies have been a joy to read over the years. Who knows - resurrection may be possible. Life's more fun that way. But by these means and in this context, I offer a fond farewell. Look for me in other formats. Maybe even face-to-face. I would very much enjoy that. Be well. Go Pack Go.