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Looking Backward, and Looking Forward 

Top Five People We Will Most Miss

1. Nelson Mandela, July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013: Imprisoned for alleged terrorist activities in the early '60s, Nelson Mandela grew into an international symbol for peace and patience, and a focal point for dissembling South Africa's centuries-old system of brutal racism. Finally released from prison in 1990, Mandela became the country's first democratically elected leader, and became one of the enduring symbols of all that is good in humanity!

2. Lou Reed, March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013: Brian Eno from Roxy Music explained that perhaps only a few thousand bought Velvet Underground records, but each one of those persons went out and started a band. Lou Reed's influence emanated out in so many directions—from glam rock, to indie americana. Gritty storytelling, marveling empathy with the deposed, deadpan singing and a leather-clad sexual appeal, his legacy lives on in hundreds of bands.

3. George Jones, September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013: The consummate country singer—and roundly considered the most authentic storyteller, belting out 150 hits, ballads and bravado, like his #1 "White Lightning." But even as his on-stage and on-radio fame rose in the 50s, his personal life worsened, with month-long drinking binges, barroom brawls, routinely missed shows and two failed attempts at launching theme parks. Throughout it all, Jones never waivered from the strong-voiced and hard-driving songs that made his music concurrently magnetic and infectious.

4. James Gandolfini, September 18, 1961 – June 19, 2013: Best known for his role as Tony Soprano in the beloved HBO series, Gandolfini was the son of a working class Italian family, and his characters carried a strong whiff of authenticity, often cast as the strongman with a murky tenderness (an enforcer in "True Romance" and an ex-stuntman "Get Shorty"). Gandolfini was a true son of New Jersey; Gov. Christie ordered flags at half-mast the day after the 51-year old actor died from a heart attack while visiting Rome, and Bruce Springsteen dedicated his concert that day to the actor.

5. Richie Havens, January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013: Havens was already a darling in Greenwich Village when he was asked to take the opening slot at the Woodstock Music Festival. When other musicians were delayed because of the bumper-to-bumper traffic, Havens stayed on stage and held court at the famous 1969 music festival for three straight hours, a performance that launched into global fame. He toured until his death this year, but also spent the intervening decades establishing an oceanographic museum for inner city kids.

Honorable mention: Roger Ebert, Tom Clancy

And, Top Five Things We're Looking Forward to Next Year

1. World Cup: Even though the American team has a snowball's chance in the Brazil sun, it is still one of the most tense and exciting sporting events in the, well, world.

2. Winter Olympics: Although the XXII Sochi Winter Olympics have had their share of pre-game controversy (oh, you know, Putin's anti-gay and roundly bullying policies), the go-around promises plenty of excitement with aging (like fine wine, that is!) skiers Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn clocking some of their fastest times ever!

3. Newport Avenue Dam Removal: After more than a century of impounding the Deschutes River and promoting silt build up and invasive plant growth in Mirror Pond's shallow waters, community leaders choose to do what's best for the community—environmentally and economically—and remove the leaky dam. (Fingers crossed).

4. Even More Bike Lanes in Bend: Thanks to the tireless work of area advocacy groups like Commute Options and Bend Bikes, we can expect more bike lanes and, hopefully, downtown Bend bicycle parking stations—all of which should encourage more (and safer) alternative transportation in Central Oregon.

5. In the new year, and with all the kinks worked out, the Affordable Care Act will ensure that thousands of Americans have access to affordable, quality health insurance.


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