2010 As a Series of Snapshots
- BP unleashed an underwater oil volcano that erupted for months, yet has already been mostly forgotten. Proving that with a few ads and some rudimentary misinformation, 50 million barrels of the crudest oil can be miraculously turned into fish food and corral fertilizer.
- Sandra Bullock managed to win an undeserved Oscar and a nation's misplaced sympathy almost simultaneously. While Jesse James' inexcusable infidelity managed to at long last give Nazi-friendly, goth tattoo models/strippers a bad name.
- Sarah Palin’s achieved what for some was a stunningly irksome degree of financial success. Which was only dwarfed by every single person working on Wall Street.
- Tiger Woods spent a whole lot of solo time working on his swing, while Elin Nordegren finally got around to reading Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy in the original Swedish. In so doing, they each found their bliss.
- Afghanistan became the Larry King of redundant, soul-draining foreign entanglements. And even Larry knew this year was the time to say that enough's enough.
- A plucky bunch of Chilean miners came up with a unique but ultimately unsuccessful way to avoid the Great Recession.
- The political fulcrum story of the year was the "big C" conservative shellacking of the "shrinking L" left. And the most vocal part of that Teabagging, pendulum-swinging movement is only going to demand more attention in the next political cycle. Be careful what you wish for, America. Check back in a handful of months from now and we'll see how this latest hopey, changey thing is working out.
- Conan O'Brien was forced to trade in a barely drivable talk show vehicle with three former owners for the equivalent of a 1992 Ford Taurus SHO with 212,000 miles - a late-night gig on TNT.
- Elena Kagan joined Sonia Sotomayor as the two Obama appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court. They both bat left, throw down the middle, and impress the scouts entirely. Although their lackluster contributions to this year's Supremes Secret Santa gift exchange left plenty of room for creativity and studiousness.
- Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held rallies in our Nation's most storied public park. Beck claimed to gather like a billion people on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to tell them something unintelligible about George Soros. Subsequently, Stewart and Colbert proved little more than it's still too early for a Father Guido Sarducci comeback.
- Haiti, the poorest nation in the hemisphere, suffered an earthquake that severely damaged well over half of the nation's structures and left over 200,000 people dead out of a population of 9,000,000. Followed by the usual aftershock of our collective brief attention span and a distinctly human inability to know what to do about such tragedies.
- Spain won their first ever World Cup, held in South Africa (the first African host nation). The biggest stars of the event turned out to be a (murdered!) octopus in Germany and a cheap plastic horn with an pornographic sounding name. Oddly enough, precisely matching one of the predictions from my last YearEnder.
- Barack Obama got popped in the kisser while playing basketball, requiring an array of stitches. The other elbows he took all year long left no such visible marks. But they'll prove much harder to repair.
- Our troops began to leave the active theatre in Iraq, moving toward the expected full withdrawal date of 2011. Aside from the tens of thousands of military trainers, supporting personnel and diplomatic staff required to operate our fancy new Embassy - the largest maintained by any nation in any other nation on the planet. Not that anyone's counting anymore.
- Blogging ended. For me, anyway. Been there, overdone that.
- George W. Bush's memoir fell a bit flat. He even included that ol' "miscarried fetus kept in a jar to scare the kids as they struggled with adolescence" chestnut. Please give a curious public something they haven't read in every other Presidential autobiography next time, won't you?
Brett Favre's shamelessly returned in the worst shape of his career for his final NFL season. Controversy ensued when poorly staged and not at all flattering self-portraits of his, um, Little Quarterback emerged. Forever replacing jokes about his wavering retirement decisions with ones that pivot upon sexting pictures of his junk. In other words, not all comebacks are good ones.
Lexicon Addition of the Year
LeBron James' NBA free agency decision was boiled down to his proclamation of “I’m taking my talents to South Beach”. Unsurprisingly, whenever a derivation of that phrase is now used, LeBron gets a cut. So think carefully before you tell your manager at Cinnabon that you're "taking my talents to the Verizon kiosk".
Trend of the Year
The troubling reality behind mining “rare earth” elements. These gnarly bits are essential to manufacturing everything from cell phones to green energy technologies and have names that sound straight out of a James Cameron movie (dysprosium, terbium, neodymium, europium, yttrium). Add in that they're crazy toxic, much of the mining is done illegally by criminal gangs and the fact that China has the market locked up like a hooker in Charlie Sheen's hotel suite.
A Few Picks for the Best of 2010
This year with an added honorable mention in each category, hereafter tagged "the UnderDoggie".
- TV – I'm left standing behind “Mad Men” as still the best show on TV. This season’s effort by Jon Hamm as Don Draper was the most twisted, beguiling yet. The episode ("The Suitcase" - regarding a Samsonite campaign) where Don got drunk with a fearlessly ambitious Peggy (the amazing Elizabeth Moss) equaled the best hour of filmed entertainment offered this whole dang year. And the UnderDoggie goes to “Louie" on FX, orbiting closely around the actual life of my favorite comedian, Louis C.K. The series started very small. Then grew a massive pair and went far out beyond the margins of what's been seen before in a sitcom format. Find it. You're welcome.
- Movies – “Black Swan” was the very best I've seen thus far. The director, Darren Aronofsky, is the scariest and most surprising thing to come out of Dallas since Jerry Jones’ last three facelifts. That pesky voice in my head desperately wants Natalie Portman’s fabulous scarves collection. She's also destined in the very near term to become the biggest female movie star on the planet. UnderDoggie – “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” - the most underappreciated movie of the Year by miles.
- Sports – The San Francisco Giants and/or the New Orleans Saints. Hard to bitch about sports with stories like these around. UnderDoggie - Canada's impressive job hosting the Winter Olympics when Vancouver appeared to be hovering somewhere in the mid-60s. Fahrenheit. I haven't the foggiest idea what that would be in celsius, eh?
- Music – Kanye West’s new album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was far and away the best, most album-y, album of the year. The arrangements, the beats, the featured performers, the flow. This one’s for the brilliant douchebag. UnderDoggie - the adorably dour, Dylanesque Swede stage-named The Tallest Man On Earth (Kristian Matsson) stayed in our CD changer more than anyone or anything else this year. His full album, "The Wild Hunt" is the best of his stuff you'll find out there.
- Books – “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart was the freshest thing I read all year. A near future dystopian novel hardly stands alone these days. But Shteyngart's unique timing and playful humor lightens and lifts the set-up perfectly. His was also the best reading of the year I saw (at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle's increasingly posh yet still hilariously Scandinavian-dominated neighborhood, Ballard). Rest assured, there were plenty of others that would have been brightened considerably by a drunken crowd and at least one accordian. My UnderDoggie goes to Tom Rachman's "The Imperfectionists". His darkly drawn characters working to stay afloat in a sinking, stinking newspaper stuck with me like no others encountered this year.
- Killer App – Wikileaks. After only 4 years old, they're already on the brink of taking down governments. Let's see Google try that. Or, please, let's not. UnderDoggie - Groupon. If your city doesn't offer them yet, those days are coming soon.
- Radio/podcast – After years of not paying much attention to them, the rock 'n roll culture program "Sound Opinions" became a podcast that I absolutely never miss at least part of. Jim and Greg's recent interview with James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem was the best chat about music I've heard all year, and they never fail to pick great stuff out of the bins I'd otherwise pass by. The UnderDoggie goes to "The Moth" - the inconsistent storytelling podcast that is more hit than miss. And sometimes a total homerun (Michaela Murphy's "All Star Game" being the best example that comes to mind from this year).
- Journalism - General Stanley McChrystal lost his job as our top commander in Afghanistan for, as best I can tell, not knowing that "Rolling Stone" magazine was in the business of writing down the stupid things he said. The other game changer scoop offered was McChrystal's affinity for Bud Light Lime. Talk about a case of "don't ask, don't tell". UnderDoggie - Ken Auletta's piece ("Publish or Perish?") in "The New Yorker" about the arrival of the iPad and what the competitive differences between it and Amazon's Kindle might mean for the future of publishing.
- Celebrity flameout – It seems almost unfair to pile onto the keeled over mess that is Lindsay Lohan. But she's absolutely in a class by herself. Aside from spending half the year in rehab and jail, her gig appears to now only be method acting prep (heavy on the "meth", but pretty equallly focused upon the "odd") for a starring role in her own autobiography. She makes Joaquin Phoenix and Christian Bale look like they're mailing it in. Sadly, Lindsay's also my dead pool pick for 2011. In spite of all that, if she had a Farrah Fawcett-equivalent poster, it would be hanging above my bunk bed. Right next to Lee Majors in his red track suit. The UnderDoggie is awarded to Miley Cyrus. In advance for 2011. And 2013.
- Person of the Year – Dan Savage for initiating the inspired public service campaign for young gay people that served up proof that “It Gets Better” in the face of daunting, classless idiocy. And the UnderDoggie goes to former JetBlue flight attendant, Steven Slater, for offering proof that in those cases where it won't we should all consider options that typically say "don't go there".
TwentyEleven’s Largely Baseless Predictions
- The next Presidential election is already boiled down to two remaining Republican challengers before the first Primary vote is cast in early 2012. A robotic re-election campaign for President Obama prepares to face either the Former Governor/Current Curmudgeon George Pataki or the Current Senator/Former Skull Model John Thune. My money's on the skull guy.
- Taylor Swift steps up her ravenous trophy hunting by bagging a Timberlake, a Clooney, a Nicholson and a Bridges (Lloyd, which is all the more creepy given that he’s been dead since 1998).
- A new form of creative American austerity becomes all the rage, driven in part by Lady Gaga’s game-changing meat dress worn at 2010's "MTV Video Awards" show. Consumers hungry for deals will eschew designer labels, choosing instead to make their own clothes with whatever they find lying around the house.
- Kate Middleton and Prince William's royal wedding becomes the most watched televised event in history, surpassing the Apollo 11 moon landing and the finale of "M*A*S*H*". Even during Prince Harry's 20-minute best man toast where he jokes about William's hair loss and some of Kate's "experimentation" in college. The world feels a bit icky for like a week.
- A retro mania for the Muppets sweeps the Nation. Once more, characters with vivid, unnatural skin tones and exaggerated, childlike emotions warms the hearts of kids young and old. Until people begin to realize how similar they are to the new Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).
- The trendy embrace by kids of SillyBandz is replaced by the new gotta-have-them craze – HamHandcuffs.
- Facebook fails in its broad assault meant to combine all our disparate forms of messaging. If I'm to believe their current plan, my next YearEnder might be automatically pulled from all my emails and texts, along with possibly all the long forgotten notes scribbled on cocktail napkins stuffed in the pockets of old coats dating way back to the elder Bush's Administration. I may not have rowed crew at Harvard, but I think I also have a case for why Facebook might lose on this one. Too much, too soon.
- The cast of “Jersey Shore” is kidnapped by North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-Un, to feed their tasteless, limitless cheese output to a hungry nation.
- Justin Bieber defies expectations and records a polka album. You get it as a joke birthday present, but end up really liking it. Then you hear it playing at a Starbucks while you're waiting on a caramel latte. You cry just a skoch. Then walk out, totally forgetting your drink order. And the rest of the day pretty much goes like that.
- And the anniversary of 9/11 becomes a moment for all of us to pause and consider just how much - or how little - can be accomplished in a decade.