I am generally a positive person, but there is no doubt that 2016 has been a very disappointing year. To be sure, I've lived through worse years; for example, 1968 ragingly sucked.
A political outsider ran a blatantly racist presidential campaign and actually won a bunch of electoral votes. (Can you imagine?!) The Vietnam War exploded. There was rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The racists who ran the Olympics basically ruined the lives of all three people (including a white guy from Australia) who medaled in the men's 200 Meters. Richard Nixon was elected president. And two of the greatest Americans of the 20th Century—Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy—were shot and killed within two months of each other. (On a personal note, I also got shot that year, so unless something truly awful happens in the next 10 days, 2016 isn't going to be the crappiest year of my lifetime.)
However, even as awful as most of 1968 was, it ended on a high note as the Apollo 8 crew orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve and Tucson High graduate (and mission commander) Frank Borman wished everyone back on Earth a Merry Christmas. Unless something truly wonderful happens in the next 10 days, 2016 isn't going to end with a hopeful uptick.
As for my year-end lists:
I watched the one "Sherlock" episode of the year ("The Abominable Bride" on BBC) on Jan. 1. For the rest of the year, TV went downhill from there. The John Le Carre mini-series "The Night Manager," with Tom Hiddleston, was pretty good and I slogged my way through "Westworld" and found the final episode surprisingly good enough that I'll probably watch Season 2 when it comes back in 2018.
I didn't read one great book this entire year. I read several good ones, but even those paled in comparison to other works by their respective authors. I just finished "The Tunnels" by Greg Mitchell. It tells of the desperate measures to dig tunnels under the Berlin Wall in the first year after the Wall had been erected. It's got danger and death, plus political intrigue as the Kennedy Administration tried to censor network TV coverage of the tunnels, fearing that it might spark World War III. I can't wait for the movie adaptation, which will be directed by Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "United 93").
But the book wasn't as good as Mitchell's earlier stuff, including "The Campaign of the Century," which thrillingly told the story of Socialist Upton Sinclair's unlikely run for governor of California during the height of the Great Depression. It's one of my favorite books ever. He also wrote the really cool book "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady" that told of the 1950 Senate race between the red-baiting Richard Nixon and his much-more-accomplished opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas (the wife of actor Melvyn Douglas). Nixon didn't want to call her a full-on Communist, so he dubbed her the Pink Lady and the press ran with it.
I finally got around to reading Richard Rhodes' "Hell and Good Company," about the Spanish Civil War. It was alright, but this is the guy who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," so everything that followed pales by comparison. However, I do recommend two of his smaller books—"Deadly Feasts," about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (yeah, baby!); and Hedy's Folly," about how the Hollywood actress dubbed the Most Beautiful Woman in the World teamed up with a classical pianist to invent a radio-controlled torpedo and the technology that allows cell phones to work today.
As for movies, I saw "La La Land" and found it charming. I thought "Deadpool" was funny. But I was totally hyped by the fact that the summer would bring another installment of "Star Trek" and a new "Jason Bourne" with Matt Damon. Both turned out to be ... okay.
I bought Bruno Mars' CD "24K Magic," his paean to early '90s R&B and New Jack Swing, a time when lyrics were naughty ("If you ain't here to party, take your ass back home"), but not yet full-on vulgar. It's fun, but "Uptown Funk" it most certainly is not.
And how's this for disappointment? When my daughter tried to get us tickets for the Adele concert in Phoenix, she did everything correctly, but still found herself locked out by the scalpers. This was a rare fail for her, because she has computer skills that rival those of my software-engineer son. Then Adele added a second concert, but we got locked out of that one, too. I don't go to many concerts these days, but I damn sure wanted to see Ms. Adkins.
I finally found a friend of a friend of a friend who said he could get us into the second concert. But then Adele postponed it due to illness. It was rescheduled for Nov. 21, which happened to be the first day of my high-school basketball team's season as well as the day that my daughter and son arrived in Norway. (Don't ask. They're strange kids; they travel a lot.)
I'll probably remember 2016 as The Year of the Major Disappointment(s). But, in relative terms, it might not be horrible. Next year is already shaping up to be The Year of the Flaming Hypocrites.