Gene's Blog: "Need vs. want" and other New Year's takes...

Gene Mueller's blog

A wedge of cheese drops in Plymouth. A lighted cherry does same in Sister Bay. And at bars, supper clubs and fancy meetin' places throughout this slice of the Klondike we call Wisconsin, an old year is kissed off and a new one greeted with some amount of booze in the veins and varying amounts of hope in our hearts.

This blogger makes few if any resolutions, per se, but sees the change of calendar as a chance to personally re-trench, re-tool and reinforce. Its time to cut back on some bad habits and to stoke the few good ones. I promise, for one, not to volunteer information about my health (or lack thereof) unless someone asks. No more turning meetings with friends into what my cohort Jim Peck calls "organ recitals" during which folks my age prattle off personal maladies or the medical horrors others experienced. I used to shake my head when I heard my parents do that with relatives and buds as I was growing up. I'd hear stories that would keep me up at night and consulting journals to see if such things were scientifically possible. Now, I hear some of those same phrases falling out of my own face and I recoil in horror.

My other vow is to weigh "need" versus "want": do I really need that second helping, that new football jersey, that next glass of wine before bedtime? Or, do I simply want it because it's there, within arm's reach or mouse click?  If we learn nothing else from the millennials, it should be their value of experiences over the need to buy stuff. This was driven home to me this past summer when I acted upon a gift given me by my niece the Christmas before: two hours of air time on my UW Stevens Point campus radio station during their alumni reunion weekend. Instead of a personal indulgence, it became an impromptu reunion of old friends and a chance to see a town I'd grown to love during my time there, this time with family in tow. It turned out being one of the greatest weekends of my life. Experiences stay with you forever. A new jersey is outdated the next time your favorite club re-does its look, which for some teams is a monthly occurrence. We can learn from the young, and this is a lesson we should gladly glean from them. 

As for the rest of life, both in the rear view mirror of '17 and as seen through the windshield of the year we face, here goes: my list of wishes, dreams and dread.

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More great coverage from the Journal/Sentinel like Raquel Rutledge's series on tainted alcohol at Mexican resorts, the effect trauma is having on a generation of inner city young people, and dangers posed by barrel recycling services in Milwaukee area neighborhoods. Plus, there are the fine political takes of Craig Gilbert, and feisty Dan Bice. Yes, the paper is thinner and smaller, full of more USA Today content than most care to see at the expense of the day-to-day local beat coverage we grew up with, but J-S is still filling a void with in-depth work found nowhere else.  I could use fewer annoying, content-disrupting ads and pop ups but hey, you gotta pay the bills.

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Done with television singing competitions. And reality romance programs. Traditional network TV can still do great stuff like "This Is Us." There's nothing real about "Survivor" and other such drivel. It's cheap and lazy, at a time when cable, streaming services and other digital competitors are serving up quality.

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Let 2018 be the year we look to other nations for answers to problems that seem to be uniquely American. Yes, ours is a special land but we don't have a monopoly on good ideas or productive solutions. Take our opiate issue, for one. Why are we ravaged while the rest of the planet suffers but a glancing blow? The world is a big place. We ignore some of its best ideas at our own risk.

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Diminish your expectations for the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers. After an over-achieving '17 campaign that gave fans all they could hope for, we could see a back-slide as GM David Stearns wisely stays on-plan moving forward. Sure, he could've made expensive free-agent splashes to win  now, but it would derail a vision for a more solid future built on youthful and much cheaper in-house talent that could make the team more than a one or two year contender.

 

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Staying at Miller Park, it's nice that the club re-did concessions this past summer with tricked-up stands, more local fare and an emphasis on quality but how's about those prices, especially for locally brewed craft products? It shouldn't cost a week's pay to buy a round of Spotted Cow for my boys. Granted, the Brewers provide fans with the greatest open-air picnic spot in the world with Miller Park's spacious lots where we can eat and drink on our own dimes, but then why punish those who chose to drink/dine inside the turnstiles? As a wise friend of mine in the food industry often says, "Pigs get fat--hogs get slaughtered."

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Someone please clue me in as to me the fascination and allure of Rob Riggle. Anyone? You over there? And, while you're at it, take another crack at explaining Bitcoin.

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May 2018 be the year we finally address the epidemic of mass killing that rears its ugly head all too often in the U.S. The template of such tragedies is sickeningly familiar: round the clock cable news coverage with the same talking heads gradually introduced to offer thoughts and prayers before fingers start getting pointed and sides accuse each other of politicizing the situation or saying that it's too soon to talk about possible change. Then, we forget. Until next time. Whether the issue is too many guns or too many crazy people or something else, how's about all sides find the right time to hash it all out? And, when exactly IS that right time? I suggest it's before we go though this sad ritual all over again.

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Let the new year be the end of this talk about Lambeau Field somehow being this great gridiron advantage for the Green Bay Packers. If 2017 proved anything, it's that stadiums and ginned up fans don't win games, on-field performance does. Nice as it may be for players to sleep in their own beds and dress in their hometown lockers, none of it means squat if the talent isn't there. This just in: other teams use the Lambeau mystique as motivation. And, as for all of those die-hard Packers fans who we're told will stick with their team no matter what? Yeah, they're just as willing to flip those long-held ducats to opposing fans for a profit on the secondary market as the fickle mopes in any other sports town, exhibit "A" being the loss to the Vikings this month where there was WAY too much purple in the stands for this fan's taste.

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Is 2018 the year we finally go a week without seeing/hearing Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan being outraged about...something? Is there another Common Council member with a hot take? May we find him or her sometime in the next 12 months. I fear for Battlin' Bob's vocal cords. And blood pressure.

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May your new year bring health, happiness and hope. And, when it doesn't, may you have the strength to deal, which is often found among good friends or those who've already been where you find yourself now. We are each other's greatest resource, one that needs to be tapped more often.

Happy New Year.

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