Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top Ten Most Fascinating People of 2009

As you have certainly noticed by now, I’m not very good at coming up with any original ideas. Most of the time I just steal stuff others and twist it around a bit. In years gone by we called this plagiarism. Now it’s referred to as “repurposing.” I do try to give credit where credit is due, however and today’s rant is no different.

Barbara Walters has done her “Most Fascinating People” of the year specials since, oh, I dunno . . . sometime in the early 60s, I think. My niece, Kira Cannon, (on the “new family” side) also thought it was a good idea and came up with her own list of Kira’s To 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009 that she posted on her blog recently. Her’s was so clever that it inspired me to come up with one of my own.

So, whether you agree with me or not (and I would guess most of you will fall in the “or not” category) here is my list of the . . .

Top 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009

David Letterman
I have loved David Letterman from just about the first time I saw him on the old Johnny Carson Tonight Show. I’ve gotta think I’m in the top 5% or so of fans who have seen the most shows. I just love his snide sense of humor (can you tell?) and I think as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten better at what he does. He is a much better interviewer now than he was even ten years ago. When he has a “serious” guest on his show, he doesn’t shy away from tough questions.

This last year was pretty embarrassing for Dave, and justifiably so. He gets married in March and six months later confesses he has had multiple affairs with women who have worked on his staff. Sleazebag! However, I think he handled it in a way that every other celebrity could learn from: He got out in front of it and ‘fessed up. It still takes a lot of nerve to take potshots at Tiger Woods after that though. But I’m sure I’ll keep watching.

Barack Obama
Love him or hate him, there are two things I think just about everyone can agree on: He works hard and he’s not afraid to tackle tough issues.

In all my years of being a political observer (which really just means that instead of celebrity gossip I prefer political gossip) I cannot remember any President trying to do so many things so quickly. The guy is everywhere. On Capitol Hill meeting with members of congress, inviting bankers over for breakfast (whether they want to come or not), at Dover Air Force Base in the middle of the night to witness the return of soldiers killed overseas, meeting with foreign leaders, etc., On top of that, he is making everyone around him work harder. When was the last time you remember Congress working on the weekend or on Christmas Eve, for heaven’s sake.

On top of that, he’s got chutzpah, courage, audacity or whatever you wanna call it. There doesn’t seem to be many things he’s afraid of. One of my favorite stories of the year is from last week at the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. The leaders of China, Brazil, India and South Africa, were huddled in a conference room strategizing how they could get their way. President Obama reportedly said there was no way he was going to let them negotiate in secret. So, he and Secretary of State Clinton burst in, uninvited, to their meeting. That approach broke the logjam and resulted in an agreement being struck. (Albeit one that ain’t all that great.)

You may not like the direction he’s trying to take the country, but you gotta think he gets an “A” for effort. Or at least an “E.”

Michael Franti
I love LOTS of different kinds of music. I listen to lots of jazz. I love slow, mournful-sounding songs – especially the standards. I love music that is fast and loud as well. Melody Gardot, Raphael Saadiq, John Mayer, Jurassic 5, Lyrics Born, John Butler Trio, Miles Davis, Soulive, are all artists that I listen to in heavy rotation.

This year, however, I discovered someone who had slipped under the radar for me: Michael Franti. Elizabeth and I wandered into his concert at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival back in August and were blown away with how good he is. Every song had the crowd on their feet singing and dancing. (Well, except for me - I have a “No dancing” clause in my contract.) His songs are infectious and almost all have a great message associated with them. If you ever get a chance to see him perform, don’t pass it up.

Richard Davis / Rick Hartnack
Okay, I cheated and picked two guys but both of them work for U.S. Bank and I kinda lump ‘em together.

Richard Davis, the Chairman and CEO, has demonstrated this year that he has an enormous amount of integrity. (How many other CEOs do you know that took a pay cut and turned down their bonuses?) He has become a leader in the banking industry and seems to be universally respected.

Rick Hartnack, Vice Chair of Consumer Banking, leads the retail banking side of U.S. Bank. What I appreciate most about his leadership ability is the plainspoken manner he approaches things. He is sometimes colorful, often funny and almost always is there no confusion about where he stands.

U.S. Bank is lucky to have a couple of guys like this running things around here!

Seth Meyers
I’ve always been a big fan of Saturday Night Live. I think these last couple of seasons have been among the best ever. Some of the political skits – especially when Tina Fey portrays Sarah Palin – have been hysterical. Andy Samberg’s “Digital Shorts” and Kristin Wiig’s weird characters can always be counted on to be solid. And Kenan Thompson and Jason Sudeikas just make me laugh by showing up.

But the person that I think is the linchpin in it all is Seth Meyers. He is the head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor. He has a clever, snarky sense of humor and delivers every line with a glint in his eye.

Donna Brazile
Never heard of her? I’m not surprised. Unless you’re a political junkie, she might not be someone you know. She is a Democratic political strategist and frequent guest on news shows – especially CNN and ABC. I like her because she is a voice of reason in what often is a shout-fest on those kinda shows. Plus, she has a great sense of humor that she doesn’t let show very often. I also was blown away by things she said about her African American ancestors having built the steps of the U.S. Capitol where Barack Obama took the oath of office.

Damon Lindlehof / Carlton Cuse
Okay, I lumped two more people together but in this case they are almost always referred to as one entity. In fact most people just refer to them as “Darlton.” These guys are the Executive Producers of LOST. As the show runners they have probably done more than any others in keeping one of the coolest shows of all time from falling apart. All too often a show will start off with a great premise and then fizzle out when they can’t figure out how to keep it going. These guys knew where they were going and have kept it on track. I can’t wait for the series finale next May!

Chip Kelly
The State of Oregon is lucky enough to have two of the best coaches in all of Division 1 college football. As much as I love Mike Riley, I gotta say that Chip Kelly is even more impressive! Anyone that can take a team to the Rose Bowl in their first season has got to be considered an outstanding football coach.

On top of that there are two other things that I think make him pretty dang great. First, he says what he thinks – and not much more. I would hate to interview him because all you can expect are one word answers. Some are funny. Almost all are to the point. “Coach, did you consider not going for it on those fourth downs (in the Civil War). Answer: “No.” I love that!

I also like how he handled the LeGarrette Blount situation this year. What a crappy thing to have to deal with after your first game! He stepped in and made sure it was HIS decision; not the university or the new Athletic Director. He owned it. And while there is still some debate about whether or not he should have allowed Blount to ever play again, you gotta love the drama of seeing him come in during the second half of the Civil War and scoring a touchdown. Even the Beaver fans went wild.

John Stewart / Stephen Colbert
If you only get your news from one source, get it from these guys.

The Daily Show with John Stewart gives you the big stories and digs deeper to ferret out the crap behind those stories. It’s often profane but always funny and insightful.

The Colbert Report mocks every “news commentator” show you’ve ever seen. How he stays “in character” like he does is beyond me! After you watch him a while, it’s tough to watch the “real” commentators (O’Reilly, Olbermann and Beck, for example) without wanting to laugh out loud at their antics.

Elizabeth, Jake and Jeremy (Plus Jeremiah, Rachel and Cassie)
As any parent knows, there is an enormous amount of satisfaction watching your kids lives. Whether they are young or old it’s always interesting (and sometimes heartbreaking) to watch them move through life. As my good friend, Robert Currie, always says, “We get to buy the ticket but we don’t get to go on the ride.” Now that my kids are grown, I don’t have to buy the ticket very often but I still live vicariously as they go on the ride. And it is still a blast watching them stretch and grow in all sorts of new ways.

Don’t know what I’d do without them!
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