In many respects, 2016 was not my year. These past few days I have often thought about the lamentation that has been rising to a deafening roar steadily these many months / years and I have consciously decided not to jump aboard and add my voice to the chorus of the either disgruntled or factiously enraged humanity all around me. Still, allow me to do so just once for 2016 and 2017. Then I’ll shut up.
Accentuate the Negative
(1) Right-wing, neo-nationalist (just as dumb a term as “alt-right“) and overly politically-correct movements of all shapes and sizes have been growning exponentially for all too long … and we’ve apparently just gotten started over here. As a teacher, I think I know where all of this is coming from, simply because I have to either teach or at least debate current affairs with my students on a regular basis and because I read six and more (online) newspapers every day, from all around the globe. That doesn’t mean I have to understand or condone any of these developments, which I don’t.
My predictions for 2017 and 2018 are very simple. The end of the European Union as I had once envisioned it is near, if not here already, Germany will experience a swift swing to the right this coming fall when we enter our election season and, if I were a terrorist, I would attack at least once more to make sure I add enough destabilizing energy to the process.
People around here say that “subliminal” racism has been a problem in Germany these past many months, but I beg to differ. For the past many years, people with both an anti-social streak as well as a deeply-seeded racist demeanor have gained a foothold much stronger than I could ever have feared possible. In 2015 and – especially – 2016 that development accelerated dramatically. In a country that is beginning to feel the severe detriments of a rapidly aging society in which younger (and apparently more intelligent) people are in the absolute minority, it has been a development that was so blatantly obvious that I gave up years ago trying to tell people that in the prevailing political climate it was all but unavoidable. I tell my students every single year to develop both an interest and a politically relevant voice, but, alas, when I was their age, I didn’t feel much more relevant either. The 50+ generation dominates our society to such a deafening degree that I have actually thought about migrating elsewhere, something that isn’t exactly a promising option for a civil servant. Besides … where the hell to? There aren’t many places I can think of where identical developments aren’t taking place simultaneously.
(2) Because of the above, focusing on other things became a number one priority in 2016.
My life is good because I decided to make it so. A simple statement like that isn’t what you typically hear around here anymore and my somewhat reclusive behavior that some of you have noticed both in 2015 and 2016 has had something to do with my frustration with political developments, online life, which has been severely impacted by these recent social and political developments, and by health issues, all of which I’m unfortunately still encountering too often.
Still, whereas most people I have known for ages suddenly see Syrian and North-African refugees stealing and raping their wives or garden gnomes, hooded foreign assassins rampant on public transportation, foreign powers invading their privacy, violence washing over them right and left, political correctness enshrouding their very livelihood, … I don’t see that much of a difference. Really, I don’t. Safeguarding against perceived dangers isn’t rocket science, but to most, lamenting the imagined loss and or change of just about everything is always so much easier.
The singular danger I see is the loss of liberal ideals and rights that an incredible number of people died for ages ago; those liberal ideals that have absolutely nothing to do with so-called liberal parties. These ideals are thrown out of the window over here on a daily basis, with a shoulder shrug, by people who are screaming their lungs out for more security, stricter laws, more equality, more … more. What they do not see is that they have all of those in spades … and are giving those achievements up with their purely emotional knee-jerk reactions to imagined circumstances that are neither backed up by facts nor by actual changes in their own lives. It is absolutely baffling.
Life is simply too short to be spent in the company of humanity’s more simple-minded individuals that have found a new valve for their mostly unfounded (but total) frustration with everything and everyone. So, quite a while ago I decided to refrain.
The other thing I am seriously tired off are people telling me what I can and should do, what’s right or wrong according to their opinionated mindset. I do believe that German society has only recently become aware of fundamental changes in society that were propagated by what is often called “The Left” (now, there’s a title for an 80s horror movie), and, yes, some of it has had too much of a numbing effect for all too long. The explosion we are seeing now is nothing but a delayed instinctual reaction to a disturbance of complacent mindsets. Yes, I agree with some sentiments rampant in German society, but I’m not going to run around assaulting people’s minds. If people think they should live their missionary streak to the fullest, fine with me, as long as they don’t insult me and encroach on my privacy.
Germany is doing well and doesn’t need “more” of this or “less” of that. What it needs are citizens with emotional intelligence, factual discussions instead of unfounded and asinine Facebook and Twitter “shitstorms“. Thinking before speaking. Contemplation. Alas, the time does not seem to be right for any of the above.
(3) Too many of my childhood heroes died this year, both musicians and actors. I’m really beginning to feel old. I don’t want to regurgitate a list here, but I remember listening to Emerson, Lake & Palmer incessantly in my tiny room when I was a child, to the Eagles with a wonderful group of new friends when I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, to all of those 80s pop icons like George Michael, Prince and David Bowie (who was never really my cup of tea) who were bearable in a decade of abysmal music. I was the only person in my age group who knew Merle Haggard, George Martin produced some of of my absolutely favorite music of my childhood, Debbie Reynolds helped make my early years shine, Carrie Fisher my later ones, I watched Robert Vaughan on an old tube TV that had first one and then all of two channels, Gene Wilder was always too outrageous for me (but I watched 99% of what he starred in), Elie Wiesel was a hero of mine for ages, I still think Michael Cimino‘s “Heaven’s Gate” is one of the greatest films of the 20th century (f*ck Ronald Reagan and his cronies), I loved Anton Yelchin‘s work and Larry Drake in “L.A. Law“, I remember placing my own teenage fist on a real-sized one of Muhammad Ali in a coffee-table sized photo book and feeling embarrassed, Harper Lee I had to read in high school class and actually enjoyed what she had to say, Abe Vigoda had one of the best moments in the Godfather trilogy, … and I would have kept Alan Rickman, one of my absolute favorites, in my closet if he had been so inclined.
And Sharon Jones died.
Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive
In all other respects, this year was just grand.
It’s probably the age factor that changes both your outlook on life and your everyday experience. I noticed – call me shallow if you like – that I tend to focus on those moments that make life worth living, increasingly so. It might be an exceptionally well-mixed cocktail or a finely-prepared dinner. A great book. A smiling person on a train. A thoughtful conversation. Things like that.
(1) Most of all though, it has always been quality time spent with the most important persons in my life. Whereas my parents aren’t the healthiest anymore, they are doing their damn best to stay on top of their game. I managed to visit in many spare moments and my plans are to keep doing so as often as possible. I have two brothers, one older and one younger, and in 2016 we finally managed to reconnect on a much more steady basis, due to my little brother’s founding of the “Happy Hour Club“, a WhatsApp group that echoes a present we once gave my dad, an engraved hand-crafted brass bell that rings in “Happy Hour” at 6 o’clock PM every time we’re together. Yes, we are the types. And there’s my better half who currently resides 80km away from here. We even got ourselves a car in 2015 to avoid that feeling of not being loved by public transportation.
(2) I bought new furniture, I bought tons of excellent wine, I joined the dark side, I improved my connectivity, I traveled all over the place, especially to Lanzarote, my favorite home away from home, and I tried my best to improve my man cave whenever possible. I’m far from going minimal, something that has been gaining prominence once again these past many months. I don’t think I’m going to be staying at my place of 25+ years past 2017, but so far I have been unsuccessful in reducing the kilotons of stuff I have to get rid of to make that happen in any sensible fashion.
(03) Musically, 2016 was a sub-par year in regard to quantity… but not in quality. I filled some holes in my classical collection, bought a few single reissues that supplement my collection of private favorites and … I rearranged my shelves for several full days to squeeze in the little stuff I bought. Really, my shelves cannot bear the music anymore and something has to go. Soon.
(04) I also finally invested a comparatively outrageous amount of money into getting some art framed that I bought at auctions more than a decade ago. Now I’m looking for a place to display it all at because mine doesn’t have a square inch left.
(05) I’m a TV-series freak and although I don’t go to the movies anymore (everything in Germany is dubbed into submission), I’ve watched a sh*tload of films in 2016. 99% of those films were total crap. Besides the very few highlights, most films were watched on fast-forward. Everyone who knows me has heard me say this before, but the Marvelization of just about every moving image is about as bad as what has happened politically and socially in 2015 and 2016. The number of total failures, shoddy filmatizations, horrific scripts; the phone-it-in acting; the general carelessness of Hollywood fare is absolutely frustrating. Nowadays, I get hold of a film, usually spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes with it … and get rid of it. It’s not because I’m old; it’s because the films are sh*t. Even art-house cinema has experienced a serious downswing into self-centered mindless self-referentiality. The highlights pop up every few months, seasons or years. If you don’t actively look for them, you’ll probably retract into your shell like I do and did, and rightly so.
(06) As regular readers know, I revamped my online presence this year, combining everything into on site, this one here. As I have often stated and as I have regularly discussed with many online acquaintances , blogging is dead, but I/we don’t care. Ages ago, I used to send out a regular hand-printed/hand-copied newsletter every year to friends and I think that David Karoll might be the only reader around here who remembers. He might also remember that he and I were the only people responding to it. In that sense, absolutely nothing has changed these past three or four decades.
(07) 2017 will see a further reduction of my online activities. I’m still continuously debating with myself if I should abandon Google+, a network which is akin to a ghost town that even Hollywood on a budget wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, but I have the feeling that G.K. and a few other friends that keep an eye on me there would ride off into the sunset as effectively as John Wayne used to do in so many films, so I’m still there. A newsletter one could subscribe to on my website might be an alternative … 2017 will show what a viable alternative might be.
As long as Twitter remains a network via which I can aggressively and successfully filter the crap to limit what I see to invigorating material, it will remain my only social network of choice. I’m not getting my hopes up though that Twitter is a survivor. Things have started to turn sour for them and I’m afraid that 2017 might mark the year where financial considerations might have a detrimental effect. Nevertheless, throughout 2016 I could keep it “clean” and love hitting it several times a day.
I’m still an active member of 4 or 5 forums which cater to my interests. Most I will pull out from in order to reduce my role to that of a mere subscriber. Many of the things I wrote about in the first few paragraphs of this post have started to creep into discussions about music, literature and film as well. As Eddie Murphy so famously “sang” ages ago, “I’d rather golf … to be perfectly honest“.
Boogie in your butt.
Besides that, I’m here, I will continue to be here … and only here.
So, there you have it.
I sincerely hope that life is going to be good for you.
Aside from the many accidental readers on here that pop up to download a Mosaic Discography, who are members of the Chris Rea fan club that discovered one of my posts years ago, who regularly land on my Ed Thigpen, Eugen Cicero, Tord Gustavsen and Bugge Wesseltoft posts, to mention just a few, I have some faithful readers whom I cannot thank enough. I enjoy our conversations around the Net, the odd mail here or there, I enjoy your opinions and I consider all of you to be the exact opposite of those people who populate my “Accentuate the Negative” part of this post above.
Thank you all.
Here’s to 2017 then.
P.S.: There are two more posts in the pipeline focusing on music and media in 2016, but they’ll pop up sometime in January. They would have added too much weight to this post here. I also wanted to include some photos from 2016 in this post but they will eventually be added in a more sensible fashion to the gallery (see the menu at the top of this page) I added in late 2016 to deus62.com.