2023 is one of those years that simply felt like a slog.
You know what I mean? Ehhh... I'll get into that in the upcoming (and 18th annual) Dome Pondering Year in Review.
Nonetheless, as has become a weird tradition as well, let's get into what I thought to be the most fascinating things to me in 2023. Again, just my thoughts - for all of you supreme critics.
And by "fascinating", I mean exactly that - people, ideas, topics, or things that simply rattled the brain with supreme interest.
Nonetheless, let's do it. My 2023 Most Fascinating Things list...
10. George Santos - In no way am I endorsing Santos, or even want to give the guy a platform of any kind - in any way. But the entire concept of Santos, a man who lied his way to public office - and continues to be unable to tell the truth - is so indicative of our societal accountability and approach to politics. Some knew he was lying even while running, and somehow, he still made it this far. There are just so many discussions around the topic. It's mind-blowing in various aspects.
9. Artificial Intelligence - I watched a student produce a required eight-page assignment - with sources - in my office in a matter of 30 minutes which frightened me. It sparked an innocent and healthy discussion in that moment among students and administration regarding how we intake and learn information through the research process. And that was just the tip of all of this discussion. The A.I. realm is real. It's here. And quite frankly, we have yet to wrap our understanding around social media use, and what exactly is there to come.
Cue the robots are taking over jokes...but it's kinda true. Scary.
8. Shohei Ohtani - I mean, come on. The guy hits. He pitches. He runs. It's vastly understated and discussed that he may just be the greatest baseball player we've ever seen. On top of that, he just banked $700 million from the Dodgers. He's an international superstar with so much earning potential. MLB has it's unicorn, and he's on one of their premiere franchises. Yup, fascinating...and likely will be in 2024.
7. Caitlin Clark - Let's start here - Caitlin Clark is absolutely box office! She's a draw for women's college basketball - and really, women's basketball. What's interesting to me is the earning potential for Clark through the NIL space, and gauging what that equates to when she does pro. With the Indiana Fever waiting (and hoping) she goes pro after getting the #1 pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, will a return to Iowa provide a more fruitful (and lucrative) route for Clark?
Either way, Clark is going to be huge for women's basketball, and the sky is the limit.
6. New York Yankees Fanbase - What an absolutely miserable bunch (that I'm a part of). There's not enough space here to discuss the layers of miserableness and discontent this fanbase spews daily that other sports fan bases would probably sign up for. It's such a weird juxtaposition.
Sitting at 6a is Brian Cashman. I really empathize with Cashman (as I'm sure others who lead professionally and are scrutinized in their profession). It's not hard to find an avenue to do if you can empathize with the decision-making. Even after a disaster of a season in 2023 (by Yankees standards), the polarizing leader went out and landed one of the greatest talents in baseball within days. And yet, some still have an issue with it. SMH.
5. LeBron James - The all-time scoring leader in NBA history for a "pass-first" guy is an accomplishment alone that is worth discussing. LeBron appreciation is exhausting as he's be the most closely followed superstar on a daily basis we've endured in North American sports, probably ever. The daily rhetoric and narratives are beyond exhausting. Just check any daytime television show.
However, for me, it's this simple territory of battling father time that continues to be absolutely fascinating. LeBron is in YEAR 21! Unprecedented.
4. Republican Party - It's the obvious. Watching (and feeling) the Republican Party try to wrestle and internally grapple with a party so divided on "conservatism". You can make the claims in some ways for the Dems as well, and truthfully, watching our two-party system move along this unsustainable way of how we try to express the political process and selection (and need) in this country. But, the GOP is the ultimate watch on this as there is Trump, it is anti-Trump, there is an older conservative guard, and there is a new ultra-right-wing movement - all battling for a claim to the GOP. Look no further than the recent debates for a glimpse into that realm.
3. Housing Crisis - Houses are the least affordable in the nation in decades. Homelessness is up across the nation. Rent is super high. A whole generation is unable to purchase homes. A whole generation is staying home with their parents. An older generation is also living with the working generation. Yet, more luxury condos are being built than ever before. And more homes are left unattended.
What are we doing?!!
2. Education Climate - Unfortunately, I see this and witness this every day. Education climates and campuses are now battlegrounds for various political agendas, leaving - in my opinion - less room for our students to critically thinking and reason. We're into banning books. Demonizing teachers. And somehow, having political pacts within the education system and process that have made education spaces so much of a struggle than a place of support.
1. Extreme Circumstances - I won't ever forget walking through New York City this year with a heavy mask on, and what still seems unreal in memory - a hazy orange filter that engulfed reality. Smoke and whatever else from the Canadian wildfires. Of course, there was the extreme heat throughout the summer, and the days of floods that increased, and that's not counting everything else that feels a bit more consistent for "extreme" than we've seen before.
But those were just my experiences. All around the world, there felt like a rise in earthquakes, and extreme floods, and famines, and heatwaves, and droughts, and all sorts of extreme circumstances. Some felt supernatural. At times, it literally felt like the world was on fire in a real way beyond what man had done.