2018 in brief: Pol­i­tics, sports, pop­u­lar cul­ture

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Local - BY DAVE BARRY

We can sum­ma­rize 2018 in two words:

It boofed.

We’re not 100 per­cent sure what “boof­ing” is, de­spite that this very is­sue was dis­cussed in a hear­ing of the United States Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. All we know for cer­tain about boof­ing is that it is dis­taste­ful and stupid. As was 2018.

What made this year so aw­ful? We could list many fac­tors, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, man­made atroc­i­ties, the ut­ter de­prav­ity of our na­tional po­lit­i­cal dis­course and the loss of Aretha Franklin. In­stead we’ll cite one event that, while mi­nor, epit­o­mizes 2018: the de­but of “Dr. Pim­ple Pop­per.” This is a cable-TV re­al­ity show fea­tur­ing high-def­i­ni­tion slomo closeup videos of a Cal­i­for­nia der­ma­tol­o­gist per­form­ing se­ri­ously dis­gust­ing pro­ce­dures on in­di­vid­u­als with zits the size of ma­ture can­taloupes. You might ask, “Who on Earth would vol­un­tar­ily watch that?” The an­swer, in 2018, was: MIL­LIONS OF PEO­PLE. That is the state of our cul­ture. We can only imag­ine what new re­al­ity shows lie ahead. We would not rule out “Dr. Butt Wiper,” or “Peo­ple Blow Their Noses Di­rectly Onto The Cam­era Lens.”

Is there any­thing good we can say about 2018? Only this: It got us out of 2017. But even that didn’t work out as we hoped.

As you re­call, we, as a na­tion, spent all of 2017 ob­sess­ing over 2016: the elec­tion, the Rus­sians, the emails, the Mueller probe, the Rus­sians, the Rus­sians, the Rus­sians.

So when 2018 dawned, we were des­per­ately hop­ing for change. It was a new year, a chance for the na­tion to break out of the end­less, point­less bar­rage of charges and coun­ter­charges, to move past the vi­cious, hate-filled hy­per­par­ti­san spew of name­call­ing and petty pointscor­ing, to end the 24/7 cy­cle of me­dia hys­te­ria, to look for­ward and be­gin to tackle the many crit­i­cal is­sues fac­ing the na­tion, the most im­por­tant of which turned out to be… …the 2016 elec­tion.

Yes. We could not es­cape it. We were like Bill Mur­ray in “Ground­hog Day,” ex­cept that when our clock ra­dio went off, in­stead of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe,” we awoke to still MORE talk of Rus­sians and emails; MORE child­ish semilit­er­ate pres­i­den­tial tweets about FAKE NEWS and Crooked Hil­lary; MORE freak­outs by cable-TV pan­elists pre­dict­ing that — for­get about the pre­vi­ous 300 times they made the same pre­dic­tion — THIS time im­peach­ment was IM­MI­NENT, PEO­PLE. IM­MI­NENT!!

Meet the new year: same as the old year.

So at some point dur­ing 2018, nor­mal, non-Belt­way-dwelling Amer­i­cans sim­ply stopped pay­ing at­ten­tion to cur­rent events. Ev­ery now and then we’d tune in to a cable-TV news show see what kinds of is­sues our na­tion’s elite po­lit­i­cal/me­dia class was grap­pling with, and we’d see a head­line like PORN STAR STORMY DANIELS: TRUMP DIDN’T USE A CON­DOM.

So let’s not get too ex­cited about 2019. Our emo­tional state, go­ing for­ward, should be hope­less­ness leav­ened with de­spair, as we can see when we look back at the grotesque boofa-palooza that was 2018, start­ing with ...

JAN­UARY

… which sees world ten­sions rise when North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un states that he has a nu­clear-

ONE EVENT, WHILE MI­NOR, EPIT­O­MIZES 2018: THE DE­BUT OF ‘DR. PIM­PLE POP­PER.’

mis­sile launch but­ton on his desk. This leaves U.S. Com­man­der-in-Chief Don­ald Trump with no vi­able mil­i­tary op­tion but to fire up his Ran­dom Cap­i­tal­izer App and tweet “I too have a Nu­clear But­ton, but it is a much big­ger & more pow­er­ful one than his,” thereby leav­ing no doubt as to which leader is more se­cure re­gard­ing the size of his but­ton. In an ap­par­ent ef­fort to re­as­sure ev­ery­one on his men­tal state, the pres­i­dent also is­sues a Tweet in which he de­scribes him­self as “ge­nius .... and a very stable ge­nius at that!” Which is EX­ACTLY HOW VERY STABLE GE­NIUSES TALK, OK??

The in­tel­lec­tual level of the na­tional dis­course soars even higher when it is re­ported that, dur­ing an Oval Of­fice meet­ing on im­mi­gra­tion re­form, the pres­i­dent re­ferred to some poorer na­tions as “sh*tholes.” This up­sets many peo­ple, es­pe­cially the frowny pan­elper­sons of CNN, who find the word “sh*thole” so deeply of­fen­sive that they re­peat it roughly 15 times per hour for a solid week. Wash­ing­ton, D.C., is con­sumed by a heated de­bate over what, ex­actly, the pres­i­dent said; the tone and sub­stance of this de­bate are re­flected in this ac­tual sen­tence from a Wash­ing­ton Post story: “Three White House of­fi­cials said [Sen. David] Per­due and [Sen. Tom] Cot­ton told the White House that they heard ‘sh*thouse’ rather than ‘sh*thole,’ al­low­ing them to deny the pres­i­dent’s com­ments on tele­vi­sion over the week­end.” (This is known in le­gal cir­cles as the “sh*thouse de­fense.”)

Mean­while the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports that shortly be­fore the 2016 elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, ar­ranged a $130,000 pay­ment to porn star Stormy Daniels so she would keep quiet about an al­leged act of ex­ec­u­tive out­reach with Trump in 2006. Co­hen re­sponds that “Pres­i­dent Trump once again ve­he­mently de­nies any such oc­cur­rence, as has Ms. Daniels.” So that set- tles THAT.

The res­i­dents of Hawaii ex­pe­ri­ence an ex­cit­ing Sat­ur­day morn­ing when they re­ceive the fol­low­ing mes­sage on their phones from the state’s Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency: “BAL­LIS­TIC MIS­SILE THREAT IN­BOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IM­ME­DI­ATE SHEL­TER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Hawaii’s gover­nor, David Ige, is quickly in­formed that it’s a false alarm, but 17 ex­tremely tense min­utes go by be­fore he gets the word out on so­cial me­dia. Asked about the de­lay, he says — we are not mak­ing this quote up — “I have to con­fess that I don’t know my Twit­ter ac­count lo­gons and the pass­words.” This state­ment arouses feel­ings of long­ing among high-level Trump ad­vis­ers.

In youth fads, the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Poi­son Con­trol Cen­ters con­tin­ues to re­ceive re­ports of young peo­ple suf­fer­ing ill ef­fects from eat­ing Tide de­ter­gent pods. Asked to ex­plain why young peo­ple would per­sist in eat­ing some­thing that tastes ter­ri­ble and makes them sick, an AAPCC spokesper­son says “As far as we can de­ter­mine, it’s be­cause they’re stupid.”

Speak­ing of stupid, in …

FEB­RU­ARY

… with yet an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down loom­ing, Congress, whose spend­ing prac­tices have put the na­tion on the road to fis­cal dis­as­ter, faces a choice. It can ei­ther:

1. Con­tinue to spend huge amounts of money that we don’t have, or 2. Not.

Af­ter much late-night drama, Congress agrees on a com­pro­mise deal un­der which it will con­tinue to spend huge amounts of money that we don’t have. This dis­play of lead­er­ship solves the bud­get prob­lem per­ma­nently un­til March, when Congress will once again tackle the com­plex prob­lem of gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

But the big story in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., is the hotly de­bated re­lease by con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans of the so-called “Nunes memo,” which, depend­ing on which cable-news net­work you lis­ten to, ei­ther does or does not prove that the FBI, in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­flu­ence on the 2016 elec­tion, abused the FISA process when it used the so-called “Steele dossier” — which was pre­pared by Fu­sion GPS, a re­search firm orig­i­nally hired by The Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con, a con­ser­va­tive news out­let, to in­ves­ti­gate Trump, but dropped by that or­ga­ni­za­tion when Trump was nom­i­nated, then hired by an at­tor­ney for the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, af­ter which Fu­sion hired for­mer Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Christo­pher Steele as an in­ves­ti­ga­tor — to ob­tain a war­rant to wire­tap Carter Page, a for­eign-pol­icy ad­viser in the Trump cam­paign who al­legedly … Hey, wake up! This is im­por­tant! Also there’s a Demo­cratic counter-memo!

On the Stormy Daniels front, Michael Co­hen ac­knowl­edges that he did, in fact, pay $130,000 to the porn ac­tress, but he used his own money and the Trump cam­paign had noth­ing to do with it and it was all to­tally le­git. So that set­tles THAT.

In do­mes­tic sports, the Ea­gles de­feat the Pa­tri­ots to win their first Su­per Bowl, and huge crowds of joy­ous Philadel­phia fans cel­e­brate by de­stroy­ing down­town Bos­ton.

No, that would ac­tu­ally make sense. In fact the Philadel­phia fans spend the night de­stroy­ing their own city, then head home for a hearty break­fast of Tide Pods.

Speak­ing of classy be­hav­ior, in …

MARCH

… Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son learns that Pres­i­dent Trump has fired him when, dur­ing an of­fi­cial visit to Africa, he is ejected from his State De­part­ment plane at 35,000 feet.

No, se­ri­ously, Tiller­son learns of his fir­ing via a pres­i­den­tial tweet, which says: “Mike Pom­peo, Di­rec­tor of the CIA, will be­come our new Sec­re­tary of State. He will do a fan­tas­tic job! Thank you to Rex Tiller­son for his ser­vice!”

Speak­ing of air travel: United Air­lines, which re­ceived some un­for­tu­nate pub­lic­ity in 2017 when it “reac­com­mo­dated” a 69year-old man by drag­ging him, bleed­ing and scream­ing, off his flight, has an event­ful week in­volv­ing trav­el­ing dogs (these events ac­tu­ally hap­pened):

A On Mon­day, a United at­ten­dant on a Hous­ton-toNew-York flight or­ders a pas­sen­ger to stow a bag con­tain­ing a French bull­dog puppy, Kok­ito, in the over­head bin. This does not turn out well for Kok­ito.

A On Tues­day, a Ger­man shep­herd named

Irgo, which United was sup­posed to fly to Kansas City, in­stead gets flown to … Ja­pan! Mean­while a Great Dane that United was sup­posed to fly to Ja­pan winds up in Kansas City. It is prob­a­bly a good thing that both of these breeds are too large for the over­head bin.

A On Thurs­day, a United Flight from Ne­wark to St. Louis is di­verted when United re­al­izes that a dog that was loaded onto the plane was sup­posed to go to Akron.

Re­spond­ing to pub­lic out­rage over these in­ci­dents, United Air­lines is­sues an apol­ogy but sends it to the wrong email ad­dress.

Congress averts yet an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down by pass­ing, with Pres­i­dent Trump sign­ing, a bill un­der which the gov­ern­ment will — pre­pare to be shocked — spend a truly in­sane amount of money that it does not have. With spend­ing ad­dressed, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., then turns to more press­ing mat­ters, specif­i­cally the Stormy Daniels cri­sis, which es­ca­lates when Ms. Daniels files a law­suit to in­val­i­date her nondis­clo­sure agree­ment on the grounds that Trump didn’t sign it. This is­sue dom­i­nates the news cy­cle, es­pe­cially on CNN, which puts Ms. Daniels’ ex­tremely out­go­ing lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, on Full Sh*thole Ro­ta­tion, which means he is fea­tured on ev­ery CNN news pro­gram and also han­dles weather and sports up­dates.

In en­ter­tain­ment news, War­ren Beatty and Faye Du­n­away, seek­ing to atone for the 2017 en­ve­lope fi­asco, re­turn to the Academy Awards stage and tri­umphantly an­nounce that the win­ner of the Os­car for Best Pic­ture is “Gone With the Wind.” For­tu­nately by then no­body is watch­ing.

The fi­as­cos con­tinue in...

APRIL

… when the aban­doned Chi­nese space sta­tion Tian­gong-1, which has been anx­iously watched by sci- en­tists as its or­bit de­cayed, plunges back to earth and, in a worst-case out­come, fails to land on Michael Ave­natti, thus en­abling him to con­tinue ap­pear­ing on CNN more of­ten than the Ge­ico Gecko.

Re­spond­ing to al­leged Rus­sian in­fil­tra­tion of Face­book and breaches of user data, the Se­nate Com­mit­tee of Ag­ing Sen­a­tors Who Can­not Op­er­ate Their Own Cell­phones Without the As­sis­tance of Min­ions holds a hear­ing in­tended to an­swer such prob­ing ques­tions as:

What IS Face­book, any­way?

Where does it go when you turn off the com­puter?

Is Face­book the one with the video of a cat rid­ing on a dog?

A How the heck do you get a cat to do that, any­way?

Pa­tiently try­ing to an­swer these ques­tions is Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg, who wears a suit and does a solid job of im­per­son­at­ing a reg­u­lar hu­man, ex­cept for not blink­ing and at one point hav­ing a ten­ta­cle emerge briefly from his left ear.

In sports, Patrick Reed wins the Mas­ters Tour­na­ment, prompt­ing ju­bi­lant Ea­gles fans to cel­e­brate by de­stroy­ing what lit­tle is left of Philadel­phia.

Speak­ing of cel­e­bra­tions, in ...

MAY

… the big­gest story by far is the wed­ding of Amer­i­can ex-ac­tress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, Duke of Sus­sex, who is in the di­rect line of suc­ces­sion to the Bri­tish throne be­hind Prince Louis of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Princess Char­lotte of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Prince Ge­orge of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Prince Wil­liam, Duke of Cam­bridge, who is be­hind Charles, Prince of Wales, who is 70 but any year now could get his shot at be­com­ing the anachro­nis­tic cer­e­mo­nial fig­ure­head of one of the world’s most sec­ond-rate pow­ers. With the stakes so high, the me­dia gid­di­ness level soars to De­f­con 1; the wed­ding cake alone gets more me­dia cov­er­age than Africa and global cli­mate change com­bined.

In other in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ments, hopes for a sum­mit meet­ing be­tween Kim Jong-un and Pres­i­dent Trump soar when North Ko­rea re­leases three Amer­i­can pris­on­ers, only to be dashed when North Ko­rea re­fuses to ac­cept, in ex­change, Stormy Daniels. Later in the month hopes soar again when North Ko­rea an­nounces that, as a good-faith ges­ture, it has de­stroyed its Pung­gye-ri nu­clear test fa­cil­ity, only to be dashed again when satel­lite im­agery of the ex­plo­sion re­veals that what the rogue na­tion ac­tu­ally blew up was a 2006 Hyundai Sonata.

Trump an­nounces that the U.S. will with­draw from the 2015 multi-na­tion nu­clear deal with Iran on the grounds that (1) it is deeply flawed, and (2) he does not own any golf cour­ses there.

In sports, the wettest Ken­tucky Derby in his­tory is won by the fa­vorite horse, Jus­tify, af­ter the rest of the field is eaten by sharks.

Speak­ing of eat­ing, in ...

JUNE

… Pres­i­dent Trump flies to Que­bec to at­tend the G7 sum­mit. Hopes that the meet­ing will pro­duce a his­toric agree­ment on global cli­mate change, or at least a nice group photo, are dashed when, dur­ing din­ner, Trump be­comes em­broiled in a heated pol­icy dis­agree­ment with the lead­ers of Canada, France, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan and the United King­dom over the

AP file

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed swords (fig­u­ra­tively) over nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions.

AP file

Adult film ac­tress Stormy Daniels made head­lines for an al­leged sex­ual en­counter with Don­ald Trump long be­fore he en­tered pol­i­tics.

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