Two thousand sixteen is going to be a monster year; I just know it. Presidential election, Summer Olympic Games, a chance to kick the teacher-haters out of the Arizona Legislature. Actually, 2015 hasn't been so bad. The economy is booming, much to the chagrin of the Obama-haters. Gas prices are ridiculously low. And Arizona's voters on both sides of the great divide have become aware of just how much damage has been done to the state's schools in the name of crackpot ideology.
What follow is a list of some of my favorite things from the past year. As always, this is not a list of "greatest" things. It's not my place to claim that something was the greatest. I just know what I like.
•Favorite Movie: I haven't seen Star Wars, but I'm fairly certain it won't be my favorite of the year. I'm definitely a Trekkie. The movie I enjoyed the most this year was the latest in the Mission Impossible series. It's amazing how the movies in this series don't fall off the Cliff of Disappointment into the Giant Pool of Sucko. As a matter of fact, the fourth installment, Ghost Protocol, and this year's Rogue Nation are the best two in the entire series. The shot of Tom Cruise hanging off the side of that airplane as it took off was worth the price of admission all by itself.
•Favorite Book: I loved The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff. The very first line of the book reads, "In 1692 the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft." How could you not want to read that book? I won't tell you what the dogs did to get convicted of witchcraft, but I can say that it wasn't for leaving a calling card on Cotton Mather's front yard.
•Favorite Book and Movie Combo: The Martian. (Pretentiousness Alert!) I almost never read fiction, but my computer-nerd son gave me The Martian to read a couple months before the movie came out. I couldn't put it down; read it in one day. Then, even though I love Matt Damon and I like the work of Ridley Scott, I was terrified that there was no way that the movie could even come close to the book, but it did. It was exciting and moving, although I have no idea how the Golden Globes could nominate it for Best Comedy.
As for my favorite Martian, it's probably the book (and not Ray Walston).
•Favorite Thing That Happened to the Republicans in 2015: Donald Trump. It's never a good idea to be self-delusional. I remember back in the 1980s when the Republican Party tried to paint itself as the party of smart people, the party of big ideas. Of course, those big ideas were the same old crap about give rich people more money and maybe something good will happen to the rest of us. More recently, they tried to paint the people who voted for Barack Obama as "low information voters."
Well, along comes Donald Trump, who holds a mirror up to the Republican Party and what appears in the glass ain't so pretty. Apparently two out of every five Republican voters say that they identify with a clown who is racist, sexist, un-American in many, many ways, and (for the topper) someone who makes fun of handicapped people.
I'm sure that there are some good and decent folks in the Republican Party. They need to look at their potential standard bearer and realize that he is the product of the vitriol that has been spread by Fox News and right-wing talk radio and Tea Party politicians over the past few years. The message is clear: If you don't look like us, you probably don't belong here. It's ugly and vulgar and, apparently, it's here for the long run in the Republican Party.
•Favorite Thing That Happened to the Democrats in 2015: Donald Trump. Who else could make Hillary Clinton look reasonable by comparison? Bernie Sanders has certainly tried with his wacky grandpa routine. The phlegm-balls on the Benghazi Committee did their best to spruce up Hillary's image. But nobody has helped out like Trump. Long may he lead the GOP polls.
•Favorite New TV Show: "Mr. Robot on USA." It's a really trippy series about a brilliant computer hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder. (Don't they all?) He joins forces with a weird anarchist who goes by the name Mr. Robot and they take on EvilCorp. It's wonderfully dark.
I also liked the pilot episode of "The Man in the High Castle," a sci-fi look by the late Philip K. Dick at what would have happened if the U.S. had lost World War II.
•Favorite Album: I absolutely adore Adele, but after the rage and fire of 21, her new album 25 seems almost sterile by comparison. I loved the retro-soul of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and the Leon Bridges album, Coming Home.
•Favorite Song: I'm blessed to have grown up with soul music. Could there possibly be a greater song (written or performed) than "My Girl"? Still, if I live another 50 years, there's a good chance that "Uptown Funk" will be my favorite song of all time. It's smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.