Monday, December 28, 2015

My Own 2015 "Best Of"

With 2015 now coming to a close, I'm taking inventory of some of the best parts of the year for me. I think looking forward is more interesting, of course, but I also believe in not taking for granted the wonderful things - and recognizing the challenging things - that make up our lives every year.

At the highest and most important level, both Diane and I exit 2015 in good health, and having just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary in October. Life is good when you have a loving partner who is also your best friend.

In terms of work, I continue to enjoy working as a contractor, focusing on marketing and communication work. It's not the expected path I thought I'd be on, but one that I am pleasantly surprised by.

With work, health and relationship all in great shape, below are some lesser-important but also entertaining "best of's" for 2015 for me...

New Rock and Roll Music
2015 was a good year for rock. Not excellent, but good. Here are the best new rock albums for me this year. Some are from new bands, some from more established acts. All were new in 2015.
  • Blur - The Magic Whip
  • Born Cages - I'm Glad I'm Not Me
  • Catfish & the Bottlemen - The Balcony
  • The Libertines - Anthems for Doomed Youth
  • The Montecristos - Born to Rock 'n' Roll
  • Peach Kelli Pop - Peach Kelli Pop III
  • The Sonics - This Is the Sonics
Check 'em out.

Meanwhile, I went to a number of concerts this year - virtually all by bands who became famous in the 80s. To be fair to myself, there were several new bands I really wanted to see when they came to Seattle, but I was not here when they did. Oh well.

Here are the best three shows I did see this year:
  • Psychedelic Furs - Yep, the Furs. They were AWESOME live at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle. You'd think maybe this 80s act would just trot out warmed over hits, but no...these guys were into it and on fire. Fire! Great, sold out show. Loved it.
  • Mark Knofler. I like Knofler and all. Dire Straights were pretty good. And, he put on a nice show at the St. Michele winery. However, the reason I rate this one highly is the ambiance and warm summer night performance. It was fun to relax, have some wine and enjoy the show with my wife. 
  • Violet Femmes - OK, so the Femmes were not the featured band at this outdoor show at Marimore Park this summer. But, they were the best band of the triple bill that also included opener Colin Hay (singer from Men at Work) and headliner Bare Naked Ladies. Great energy, quirky sing-along classic songs a major bonus...I went to the show with my high school buddy Lou Lucarelli. Great to catch up with him.
Honorable mention: Matt Pond PA, B-52s, Public Image Limited, Joe Jackson

2015 was not a prolific year for my photography. I will strive to re-engage more in 2016. With trips to Mexico and Portugal on the agenda, I think I'll be back in the swing.

At any rate, here are a few of the best shots I did take in 2015. You can see a larger selection of photos I took this year in my 2015: The Year in Pictures album.

We took a few very fun, very pleasant domestic trips this year.
  • Palm Springs. Along with some friends, we rented a house for a few days in February and had a blast sitting at the pool, going out to eat and relaxing. Highly recommended.
  • Hawaii. In May we went to the Big Island. We'd never been their before. We saw the active volcano, explored some little hill towns, went to the beach, hung at the hotel and sampled some very good cuisine. Loved it!
  • Cannon Beach, Oregon. One week this year, we hosted a French student at our house. She wasn't here to attended classes, but rather work on her English and see the sights. Among the things we did was shoot down to Cannon Beach for a great couple nights down there. Beautiful. 
It was a very good year in sports for me - both for activities I participated in, as well as the teams I follow.
  • I completed the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride for the second year in a row. 206 miles people.
  • I also completed the 100 mile Tour de Cure ride and the 80-mile Perimeter Ride of Seattle (PROS) this year. Throw in a lot of training rides, and I estimate I rode more than 1,000 miles in 2015.
  • My Oregon Ducks football team won the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 by defeating Florida State.
  • The UO football team then went on to post a 9-3 season during ensuing 2015 in the fall that included wins against rivals UW (for the 12th year in a row), OS (for the 8th year in a row) and Stanford. 
  • My Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers in a epic comeback for the ages. Seriously, if you've not seen how the Hawks won, check it out on YouTube. This put them into the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, that game ended "oddly" to say the least.
  • The Oregon Men's Track Team won the Pac-12 and National Championships, again.
  • The Oregon Men's Basketball team made the NCAA tourney and got to the second round...a very good result considering expectations for the season.
2015 was a whopper of a year in politics. I'm primarily talking about the U.S. presidential election cycle. And more specifically the array of Republican party candidates, the "debates" they participated in and the fact that Donald Trump is their front-runner.

Most Over-Rated Presidential Candidate - Ben Carson. Seriously, how did this guy even get in the mix? He's way off in Luny Toons land on many issues, incoherent and has no charisma.

Most Under-Rated Presidential Candidate - easy, Bernie Sanders. This guy believes in what most Americans want, regardless of labels or party affiliation.

Most Irrelevant Presidential Candidate - it's a tie between Jeb Bush and whomever that third Democrat is who is running. Bush has all the expectations, money and campaign infrastructure needed to win the Republican nomination. The one thing he doesn't have is a personality. Bye bye Jeb! Meanwhile, Martin O'Malley is, well, who?

Scariest Presidential Candidate - Trump. If he were to be our president our economy would begin to crash again as it did the last time the Rs ran all branches. Trump has no realistic ideas on the economy, and therefore a Republican-controlled Congress will will run the show by enacting the tax cuts and deregulation that led to our problems last time. If Trump followed through on his ideas around deporting millions of people out of the country, banning Muslims from entering and building a wall across our southern border...not only will that break the economy, it will institute a police state the likes of which we have not seen here before.

Meanwhile, and I truly believe this, we would be thrust into a major war somewhere and/or see a sharp increase in terror attacks here in the US. Trump is a bully, a chest thumper and not only would over-react to real or perceived threats, I think would actually go out looking for opportunities to bomb or invade countries.

Most Likely to Win Presidential Candidate - while it is NOT a slam dunk, I think Hillary Clinton has the best shot at winning the whole thing in 2016. She has broad appeal, stands for more common ground issues than certainly any of the Republicans, and has a lot of experience. Yes, she is polarizing to many, but not a majority of voters. And, by comparison to, say, a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, she's relatively easy to like.

2015 did not deliver many excellent movies in my opinion. I know Star Wars is out now, but I have not seen it yet. My strategy is to wait for a week or two and then go mid-week during the day when crowds are smaller. In the meantime, these three are the only ones I saw that I thought rose above the mediocrity.
  • Brooklyn - the story of an immigrant Irish girl coming to the USA. Sounds boring. It is not. Great drama.
  • Ex Machina - an interesting sci-fi flick about what technology could become...and what it could be capable of. Lots of interesting questions raised in this one.
  • No Escape - a big wind up that has you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
  • Montage of Heck - a documentary about Kurt Cobain. I thought it was very well done considering his story is so well known. 
Star Wars, Bridge of Spies and Black Mass may make this list at some point, once I see them.

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