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Things I'm grateful for in 2008

In light of my previous post, I though a little sunshine was in order.

So here a list of things that I am grateful for in 2008:

Obama: Could things look more hopeful? I was wrong to doubt this man. He may be the one person left on this planet who could bring integrity back in the White House. He’s one smart cookie… and when you have a cookie factory that has been allowed to churn out crap for eight years you kind of need a smart cookie to take the reins. He’s JFK minus the baggage. A new beginning. I pray he’s not Jimmy Carter II. So, while I’m holding my breath, I’m also assuming that I needn’t hold it for long.

Kristine W.: While her upcoming, much-promised albums ‘The Power of Music’ and ‘Straight Up with a Twist’ have yet to appear (they are now being promised for 2009), 2008 did have several really choice tidbits trickle out of the Fly Again camp. Her cover of the old Diana Ross classic “The Boss” hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play charts. And November brought forth her holiday offering, an EP entitled “Hey, Mr. Christmas” and the second single from ‘The Power of Music’, ‘Never’. She continues to amaze me. Her vocal style is becoming more defined, which is not to say predictable in anyway (check out those Michael Jackson like trills on ‘The Boss’. She is simply one of the best vocalists. I’m always tempted to qualify that with “on the dance scene today”. But no… she is simply one of the best vocalists – period. No need to auto tune her vocals. She’ll never be caught lip syncing. Nor does she have one of those barely-a-whisper-oh-so-frail-waif-like voices. She’s a powerhouse who knows when to rein it in. She writes, too. Ah yes, she is the real deal.

Solange, Estelle, M.I.A., Santogold, and Lady Gaga: Just when you thought Jill Scott and Macy Grey had done all they could do to revive a glorious, feel-good ‘70’s vibe along come these five to place all sorts of intricate twists into the soul/dance/new wave/world music/disco mix. Solange is the biggest surprise. ‘Sandcastle Disco’ alone guarantees that she’ll never have to stand in the shadow of her famous sister again. Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ didn’t need the stamp of Kayne West, but it probably helped it gain a lot of attention. M.I.A. almost fell between the cracks, despite all the accolades heaped in her direction in 2007 – but thanks to stoner pic ‘Pineapple Express’, ‘Paper Planes’ finally got her the chart action she deserved. Santagold’s debut has yet to yield a breakout hit, but the album continues to generate lots of buzz. I just love the whiplash, new wave (The Waitresses, Missing Persons), knowing smile of ‘L.E.S. Artistes’. And Lady Gaga? Well, I suppose for someone with her writing history this type of success comes as no surprise. Watching the rise of ‘Just Dance’ (with or without Akon) throughout the year has been a lot of fun. That she managed to top the Dance Charts and then break through to the top ten of the Hot 100 – and has a second #1 (Pokerface) in Canada, makes me think we’ll be hearing more from her album ‘The Fame’ during the first quarter of 2009.

Kathy Griffin: I saw her live! At the final show of her 5 night sold-out run at the Orpheum in Minneapolis, MN. It was surreal. Kind of like seeing the Muppets Live, only much better than you could ever expect it to be! She worked the house like a jack hammer and her energy never dimmed once. I can’t imagine the inside of her head – it must be like a billion sparks with magic hamsters running around in circles and tiny internet gnomes Google-ing their brains out. I just love her. Look forward to another season of ‘My Life on the D-List’, am hoping she wins her Grammy (I tried to buy the album at Target, no luck – why? I wonder.), and finds the love her life (Girl needs it bad). Just a note – she’s the first woman since Joan Rivers in 1984 to have a #1 comedy album on the Billboard Comedy Album Charts. For god’s sake – give the lady her Grammy!

Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Yeah, I know – the pundits that be say the show sagged a bit and lost some luster this season. But they’re wrong. This show single handedly justifies owning a television. The writing is sharp, the ensemble chemistry is amazing, and its cutting edge continues to draw blood while carving away at society’s norms, television conventions and the American psyche.

Christine Applegate/Samantha Who?: I avoided this until about two months ago. Now I’m hooked. ‘Samantha Who?’ is the true inheritor of the throne vacated by ‘Sex and The City’. It’s got a much better cast, a better premise and better writing than those other pretenders (Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia). Key to this success, and to the success of numerous movies of dubious quality, is the charm, talent and presence of Ms. Applegate. Never would I have thought this possible, back in the days of when I caught the occasional episode of ‘Married With Children’. Her grace, humor and beauty just blow me away. Oh – and with Jean Smart on board – how could she go wrong? (Though I do hope they do more with Melissa McCarthy’s character.)

The Big Bang Theory: At my house, we refer to this show as “The Nerd Boys”, as in “Hurry up, the nerd boys are on.” It has yet to fail to delight. I like the cast. The timing/telepathy on display at times rivals that of ‘Fraiser’. I especially like the addition of Sara Rue this season, although something tells me that her stay won’t last through the premiere of next season. There’s a lot of smart stuff here, and I think it is just going to get smarter.

Gordon Ramsey/Kitchen Nightmares: Fascinating. And Mr. Ramsey isn’t nearly as stupidly nasty as he is on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. This is a great tutorial on what not to do with money, how not to decorate a restaurant, what not to put on a menu, how not to run a kitchen, etc. It is business 101 for budding restaurateurs. I have learned so much. I think Gordon Ramsey is one hell of a great teacher. Very insightful.

Little Britian: I love these guys. They pick up where ‘The League of Gentlemen’ and Kids in the Hall left off. Cheeky to the extreme.

Other TV Programs of note: Sordid Lives, Clean House, and The Soup

Sex in The City:The Movie: Okay, so it was too long. In fact, it was like watching an entire season of episodes without a bathroom break. Putting it all together like that, the weaknesses couldn’t help but show. This premise is a serial. But, like seeing old friends that you haven’t seen in awhile, it was nice to get together again. There were no revelations. Nobody died. Everyone remained just as self-centered as ever. So, yeah, it was your typical reunion. I just think that the price of a movie ticket should have come with a complimentary martini. Gin, please!

Hillary Clinton: She made this election year very exciting. And though most would disagree, I think she played the game very well – stepping down only when it was necessary. My admiration for her is immense. I hope she has a great run as Secretary of State and helps restore this country’s tarnished image.

Happy holidays... and have a great new year!

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