Call me ungrateful but 2007 was a terrible year. My ability to cope with the fading era of President George W. Bush ran out 12 months early. I can take no more.
Even wine doesn’t taste the same to me. There’s no joy in it. People tell me it’s good but I can’t say that I notice. I’m drinking Prosecco and cava now. What kind of misanthrope has to put bubbles in her wine to cheer up?
But if 2007 was bad, it did have its moments, vile or otherwise.
Weirdest spousal replacement
At first I thought Nicolas Sarkozy was back with his ex-wife (who dumped her husband at his high point, which is beyond cool, je vous adore, CÃ©cilia). But no, he was posing with an Italian model who is her physical clone.
Everyone has a sexual type. For men, it is said to be the large-breasted blonde, for women, men with muscles of wood. But this is nonsense. We all have a sexual trigger, perhaps someone we saw at a crucial stage of development, and for the rest of our lives, this is what gets us hot. For Sarkozy, it is tall brunettes of foreign blood with high cheekbones, a flat facial profile and an air of serenity. For me, it is a good clear mind. For Bush, it is big-boned librarians desperate to escape the stigma of having killed a boyfriend in a car accident.
But Sarkozy is living a Cronenberg movie and it’s possible that he doesn’t know. “Of whom does this Carla Bruni remind me? She rings a bell somehow.”
Best press release
Mere days after the footage of Robert Dziekanski being stunned with a Taser by the RCMP and dying in front of us, the Vancouver Airport Authority sent out an extraordinary press release detailing all the changes it was making to prevent this happening again, at a cost of $1.3 million, and each change in staffing and procedure was followed by a sentence explaining what the situation had been under the old system.
(Note: If newspaper corrections were phrased this way, people would actually read them. The Guardian, which is a frequent festival of errors colloquially known as The Grauniad, does this and the Corrections are so fascinating that they’re published as books. Is this not glorious?)
The release was a model of clarity and sanity. Although it did occur to me that all this good work was being done for a sick purpose: to prevent the RCMP ever getting their hands on another exhausted, panic-stricken passenger again. It’s a roundabout way of not disciplining one of the worst police forces in the Western world.
Fastest descent of a website
With the departure of David Talbot, Salon.com, based in San Francisco, got a new editor, Joan Walsh, a sort of Tina Brown with no make-up. The site went from a must-read news and analysis site to a mid-range women’s magazine with articles about fat and breasts to the ultimate article about fat breasts. Even Ask the Pilot, a perfectly serviceable column on air travel, was asked to go personal. So the columnist, Patrick White, wrote about travelling to the Birkenau death camp and finding two salt-shaker-sized ceramic insulator pegs once strung in the electric fence. He stole them and kept them as souvenirs. Some readers, including me, went insane, but nothing happened. Whenever I have hopes for journalistic ethics, I think of the pegs and hurt myself with something sharp and pointy.
Best local website
New York Magazine, at www.nymag.com, has great news reflexes as well as being effortlessly quick-witted. Last week, for example, their New Year’s edition offered resolutions for other people. I wish I’d thought of that. (Note to 2008 self: Get sense of humour back.)
Here’s their assessment of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert going back to work on their parody news shows without writers: “Both hosts will have to improvise pretty much everything they say, but at least Stewart will be improvising as himself rather than as, you know, a complex meta-character whose every word is carefully calculated for maximum blowhardiness. Yikes, Colbert is in deep shit.” (Note to self: Write like this.)
Let me say the Tyee.ca is an admirable Vancouver website built up against the odds, and I sympathize with anyone inheriting fatal kidney disease. But editors exist to protect vulnerable writers. An emotive piece by a woman about her brother urinating blood and realizing that the disease had come upon him should not have included this: “That bloody pee was like a raven on his shoulder, warning him not to wait.” I’m just glad it was urine.
Eddie Izzard, touring with Tony Blair for his favourite cause, the EU, was asked if he wasn’t disillusioned with New Labour. “I was never illusioned,” he said.
But I have been illusioned all my life, which is perhaps why I spent 2007 in a foul temper. It shouldn’t have come as a revelation, but people who suffer racism can be just as racist themselves. And feminism, like any other cause, has a degree of self-interest.
Is this why people turn to the political right as they age, not grumpiness but a savage disappointment? (Note to self: Fight this.)
Most salutary image
The BBC ran a Getty Images photograph of the wounded and dying after the suicide bomb blast that killed Benazir Bhutto. As usual, the photo had no women in it — although the violence was directed at an individual woman — because women in Pakistan appear to play no part in the life of the nation.
Terrible as it was, the scene with its great lumps of red, wet human flesh looked familiar from the movies. But a great news organization finally had the courage to show us what bombs do to people. In one photo, the BBC achieved what Robert Fisk did in words when he removed a fragment from a Hellfire missile that blew up children in an ambulance in Lebanon in 1996. He took the fragment back to the Boeing factory in Georgia where it was made and told them what they had achieved. Boeing officials essentially told him, Missiles don’t kill people, people kill people.
Good for the BBC. If people saw what bombs do, they would be less willing to make them, sell them and use them. You may say I’m illusioned. But I’m not the only one.
I read one of my husbandâe(TM)s Christmas gifts to me, The Ghost, Robert Harrisâe(TM)s roman Ã clef about his former friend, Tony Blair. It was marvellous and I read it at one enthralled sitting.
My husband, meanwhile, gazed at one of my Christmas gifts to him. It is a huge wall-filling giclÃ©e poster of a Swiss bellhop. It is vaguely 1930s, not a time Switzerland was behaving well. He is wearing a scarlet cap and strange insignia on the collar of his uniform. In the shop, it was an inspired choice. At home, we are both wondering if we can endure this sinister man gazing at us every day from the lobby of the Schweizerhof. This may be my worst gift ever. Why didnâe(TM)t I just buy the man a nice novel?