In case you haven”t been paying attention, there was a lot of news reported in 2008. Outside of volcanoes and dopey pet stories, the news always seems to revolve around people. Who did this, who did that, who had this done to them, who killed who, who won, who lost, who died, who thrived, who stole Granny’s nest egg and so on. Being that the 2008 hour glass is swiftly running out of sand, it’s time to restate the obvious with an annual People In The News Recap. 2008 was a pretty tumultuous year with a lot going on and a lot of people sticking their two cents in and a lot of very big stories. Earth shattering, stunning and momentous and whatnot.

Let’s ignore all that. No sense adding even more blah-blah-blah to the big stories. Suffice to say that Bush The Younger kept screwing up this nation in ways no one thought humanly possible, Barack Obama won the dubious honor of cleaning up after him and for a kicker the greedy corporate princes finally achieved their goal of stealing all the money. We know all that. Heard it said in a thousand ways and it’s still the same bleak mess with the only ray of hope some skinny black guy out of Chicago who for all our sakes had better be more than good, at the minimum great. Miraculous would better. Enough said about all that.

So, what else happened? Oil prices shot through the roof and then came back down again just to let us know that the venal swine who run Big Oil and OPEC (is there a difference?) can screw up our lives pretty much anytime they want, as if we needed that irritating reminder. Baseball free agents scooped up whatever millions were left over from the Wall Street Greeding Frenzy. TV got even worse with more reality shows and shit-coms, one dumber than the next. In an unprecedented  occurrence, the rich didn’t get richer, but the poor still got poorer, models of consistency. In Africa, genocide continues to be such a success that some people have decided that adding slavery to the mix sounded like a fine idea. At least for the slave owners, anyway. The slaves are not so crazy about it. Like they say, everything old is new again. Look at Somalia and their pirates. Very retro.

This was another year when a lot of people looked for excuses for their poor behavior, nothing ground-breaking there. Unfortunately for the screw-ups, however, this is The Information Age, so the old standard excuse that they didn’t know any better doesn’t work so well anymore. It’s not like they can claim that the information was unavailable when eight year olds can look it up in about a minute and a half. Expect next year’s excuses to be more dementia-oriented and of the blaming-the-other-guy variety.

Other people in the news included some poor sap who got trampled to death at a Walmart store by shoppers who stepped over his lifeless body to fight over the privilege of buying cheaply made Chinese crap for their kids for Christmas. There was a lady who got a face transplant, a pretty generous gesture by the donor, who unlike a kidney, had no spare. A lot of scientists were in the news this past year, not for any exciting breakthroughs they’ve made in any of their fields of endeavor, but basically to wring their hands over global warming and to announce that they guessed wrong on lots of things. Well, there’s no shortage of Discovery Channel and National Geographic shows about scientists who came before them and actually discovered and invented things for these achievement-challenged dopes to narrate so they can still feel useful and smart. That’s something, no?

Then there was the guy who won a whole bunch of gold medals in the Beijing Olympics in spite of the chunky-stye air. To his credit, he came home and claimed his rewards: hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements and a stripper girlfriend. And speaking of China and the Olympics, their government officials restored the world’s confidence in their commitment to tyranny when they revoked any freedom of the press and the internet they had temporarily granted during the Games immediately following the Closing Ceremonies. Snuffed them out like the Olympic torch. People were sort of unnerved by whatever limited openness and access they had allowed while the world spotlight was on Beijing, but that great rift in The Force was restored by the intrepid Chinese leadership with a deft combination of brutal crackdowns and dire threats. Well done, Comrades.

Mercifully, no new Harry Potter movies were released this year, but the bleak forecasts for 2009 turn even grimmer with the announcement of a new installment of this geek series being released in the Spring of 2009. Meanwhile, Hollywood producers are fearful that they have exhausted all possible comic book characters being translated into big box office movies and have rejected scripts depicting Archie and Jughead as super heros with uncanny strength and mutant abilities and several others exploring the possibilities of making Zap Comic’s Mr. Natural a crime-fighting hippy. So far, the committees and focus groups that make movies these days are undecided what the next moronic trend ought to be.

In celebrity news, always a source of stellar journalism, there were the usual suspects getting drunk, arrested, sent to drug rehab, making incoherent political statements, switching sexual identities, announcing some really boring personal transformation and appearing on Dancing With The Former Stars. Nothing to sink one’s teeth into, even with Madonna’s splashy divorce. What did her ex-husband expect? Exactly who did he think he married, Marie Osmond? You don’t get a pit bull and then complain when it bites the neighbors. But we’ve seen this all before, so everyone was delighted when in an end-of-the-year coup, the ever-reliable Paris Hilton reported she’d been robbed of $2 million in jewels because she left her front door open. You go, girl!

The New York football Giants had a good year, winning the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, a team everyone had ordained beforehand as the Best-Ever-In-The-Universe-For-All-Time-And-Into-The-Future. Which is why they actually play these games. Just in case the unexpected happens, you know. Also having a banner year was video star Osama bin Laden, topping the charts with several incoherent diatribes made in Pakistan, of all places. He’s been having quite a few good years since he burst onto the international scene in September of 2001. Having less successful years were a series of bin Laden’s #2 and #3 men, guys who seem to draw Predator Drone missiles like flies to rotten fish. Nervous Al Qaeda aides are jockeying for non-consideration for the vacant posts, feverishly nominating the other candidates as being far more worthy.

And speaking of candidates, John McCain had a pretty disappointing 2008, but his running mate Sarah Palin took the opportunity to set herself up to be irritating on not only a national, but a global scale for many years to come. Which is not exactly good news for her soon to be shotgun-wed son-in-law Levi Johnson, an amiable enough piece of trailer trash who didn’t seek all this publicity. Now his Mom’s been arrested for possession of the prescription drug Oxycontin, Rush Limbaugh’s favorite intoxicant, er, that is… pain killer. Young Mr. Johnson figures it’s only a matter of time before the crystal meth lab in his family’s garage is uncovered.

As for anybody else making news in 2008, well, they know who they are and so do we. Most are better left unmentioned since they are either thieves, killers or crooked politicians. Items of good news have been few and far between, pretty much beginning and ending with the Giants winning the Super Bowl and Obama’s election. And so just like every other disappointing year we turn to New Year’s and a new beginning, a fresh and clean new year for us to swear we’re going to cherish before we crap all over it. Can’t wait for next year’s’ happy recap about all the great things we’re going to accomplish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

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