Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That Wonderful Year in Music... 1984

Sometime last year, I was surfing AllMusic.com when I found a series of articles in which their editorial staff penned a mass retrospective for a particular year in music. This inspired me to write my own lists of albums and songs from back in the day, and it generated enough positive feedback to become a monthly feature.

This month's musical spotlight is set on 1984, and this time I opted to do a smidgen of research rather than slap together a list of albums and songs from a particular year. (I'm bound to accidentally overlook something from these lists; after all, I tossed up a best-of list for 1971 not too long ago and somehow omitted Pearl, The Yes Album, and Nilsson Schmilsson.) Nonetheless, the year that inspired a dystopian George Orwell novel does have resonance with me, since it was the year I was born. I found it hard to believe that all of the music listed below is already a quarter-century old, but existentially it made me realize I'll be 25 myself in August. As for the music, I wasn't quite sure where to place film soundtracks (especially This is Spinal Tap and Stop Making Sense, and you can't deny the brilliance of either) but other prominent movie songs are mentioned below.
Here's my ten favorite albums:

1. Purple Rain, Prince & The Revolution. It must've been pretty cool to be living in Minneapolis in the mid-1980s, if only for the bounty of great music that was coming out of the Twin Cities. (The Vikings fans and eight months of snow per year, I can do without.) Leading the pack was the former Prince Rogers Nelson, whose sixth album was not only the soundtrack to a hit movie, but the most experimental pop record of its time. It works as a rock, R&B, and dance album, and metalheads and guitar-god worshippers won't feel left out, either.
2. Zen Arcade, Hüsker Dü. Minneapolis Was Cool In The 80s, Part 2: a hardcore-punk magnum opus about teenage alienation. "Turn On The News" alone probably inspired every other Foo Fighters song ever written.
3. Let It Be, The Replacements. Minneapolis Was Cool In The 80s, Part 3: sensational garage-rock from Paul Westerberg and company, though far more complex than their first two albums. "I Will Dare" and "Unsatisfied" are the go-to tracks.
4. Double Nickels on the Dime, The Minutemen
5. Reckoning, R.E.M.
6. The Smiths, The Smiths
7. Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen
8. II, Meat Puppets
9. Ride The Lightning, Metallica
10. I Often Dream of Trains, Robyn Hitchcock. Robyn's third solo album is
a cathartic, mostly acoustic affair, putting his odd stream-of-consciousness lyrics front and center with sparse backing arrangements. It's hard to write a song as wonderfully zany as "Sometimes I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl" or "Uncorrected Personality Traits," but even harder to pen a haunting ballad like "Autumn Is Your Last Chance."

Honorable Mentions: Building the Perfect Beast, Don Henley; Learning to Crawl, The Pretenders; From Her to Eternity, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds; Run-DMC, Run-DMC; 1984, Van Halen

Excluding songs from the aforementioned albums, here's my favorite singles from 1984:

"Pride (In the Name of Love)," U2
"Like a Virgin," Madonna
"This Glamorous Life," Sheila E.
"Hold Me Now," Thompson Twins
"What's Love Got to Do With It," Tina Turner
"Caribbean Queen," Billy Ocean
"One Thing Leads to Another," The Fixx
"99 Luftballons" (aka "99 Red Balloons"), Nena
"Drive," The Cars
"Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," The Smiths

1984 was also a banner year for music videos, as you can see from the links I've embedded. The innovations that these five clips brought to the table will probably be lost to a younger generation, especially anyone who associates MTV with reality shows, but I'll let the videos speak for themselves:

"You Might Think," The Cars
"Hot for Teacher," Van Halen (Yes, that is Phil Hartman's voice on the PA system)
"Time After Time," Cyndi Lauper
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," Eurythmics
"We're Not Gonna Take It," Twisted Sister

Invariably, most of the songs and albums I've mentioned will probably earn a 25th anniversary reissue (the remastered versions of Let It Be and I Only Dream of Trains were released late last year), and I highly suggest checking them out if you're not familiar with a particular artist on these lists.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Chocolate and Peanut Butter Treat

As of 11:15 AM Chicago time, Barack Obama is now the 44th --and first African American-- President of the United States. His inaugurational address this morning was blunt yet stirring, directly addressing the various crises that affect the United States but acknowleding that we still have our pride and patriotism and that we're not down for the count just yet. Basically, he endorsed "a new era of responsibility" where integrity and hard work will be demanded to get America back on its feet. Obama's address was vague in places and carried the same rose-colored tint that his most stirring orations often carry, but it was still one of the most memorable introductory speeches in recent memory.

Regardless of your political beliefs, today's swearing-in speaks volumes about how race relations have progressed in our country in the last half-century. Sadly, this won't immediately end racism and bigotry in America and reminders of that unfortunate past still linger. That message has spilled out into tonight's television programming; where the major networks are covering the inaugural balls, Turner Classic Movies is showing Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the MLB Network is airing the episode of Ken Burns' "Baseball" that spotlights the advent of the Negro Leagues, and TV Land has "Cosby Show" repeats. Are you seeing a pattern?

So where was I during today's events? At work, mostly. I watched some of the inauguration coverage on NBC and Fox News before I left for work -I only had FNC on out of curiousity- and listened to President Obama and Vice President Biden being sworn in on the car radio as I drove north on I-355. In only heard the first minute or so of Obama's speech live before I stopped for lunch, than read the transcript during my break at the office.

I'll admit that I smiled when I heard Obama being sworn in; I thought Chief Justice Roberts' fumbling was an issue with the satellite feed, but when I learned that he slipped the oath of office I found it oddly charming. All of the precise maneuvering and machinations that led into Obama taking office and Roberts nearly dropped the ball when the big moment came- how fitting was that? They even found a way to make it seem self-depreciating. Most of my colleagues took this with a grain of salt; two of our sales guys spent all morning ranting and raving about how this is the beginning of America's transition into a Socialist state, and in spite of our office's conservative leanings most of their complaining fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile... I can't say I've been terribly affected by the FDA's recall of peanut butter, because I haven't had a taste of the stuff in years, which I attribute to being allergic to peanut oil. There's a part of me that wants to gloat about the sudden shortage of Jif and Peter Pan on supermarket shelves, but I also empathize for those that miss their favorite pigout food. I was diagnosed with my allergy when I was five years old, when such an affliction was still fairly uncommon; I was trying PB on a celery stalk in preschool and passed out shortly after swallowing it.

Nearly twenty years later I feel like a reluctant pioneer, as I'm still the oldest person I know that can't touch the chunky stuff. I've never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and about half of the candy bars on the market are verboten unless I risk the swelling of my lips, fatigue, and nausea. If the peanut oil is cooked in, like a chicken nugget from Chick-Fil-A, I can consume that in small doses as long as I have a tall glass of water handy. I only take consolation in the fact that there are millions of children in this country with the same affliction. In short, I am well accoustomed to a world without peanut butter, and during this salmonella-induced embargo (fleeting as it may be) I hope you get a better feel of this inadvertant legume-free lifestyle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random Notes, January 2009

+ Arguably the most crucial international news story of the last two weeks has been the explosion of tensions in the Middle East; I would've used the term "growing," but Israeli-Palestinian relations have been hopelessly stagnant for decades. Our pal Daniel (aka The Kentucky Democrat) has been very vocal about the Israeli cause, a noble declaration of solidarity for his faith and his people. I have no problem with Zionism as long as it's not extremism, but I acknowledge that the pseudo-state of Palastine has rights as well. Both factions must figure out a way to ignore the radical warmongers that seem bent on eradicating the opposition by all means necessary, and learn how to coexist in a shared holy land. Tensions have spread all the across the world, as major cities with sizable Jewish populations (especially Paris and Chicago) have seen a spike in vandalism and other assorted anti-Semetic hate crimes.

I will avoid any further impartiality and admit that the solution begins and ends with Hamas; they were elected into power with the most meager of majorities three years ago, and they must soften their stance on Israel or risk being toppled by outside forces. On the other hand, there is a vocal minority of Israelis that just plain ol' hate their Muslim neighbors and will gladly swap molotov cocktails until the end of time. Sadly, it's gradually becoming hard to tell if either side really wants peace anymore.

+ Yesterday, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2009, inducting all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson and press-shy power hitter Jim Rice. Henderson was inducted in his first year of eligbility, and his credentials are hard to question; the best leadoff hitter of the last half-century (if not all time), Rickey was also a warrior on the basepaths, feasting on any second or third baseman that tried to stop him. Henderson's classmate Rice, however was far from a unanimous pick; the most feared #3 hitter of the late '70s and early '80s, Jim hit one bomb after another over The Green Monster but just wasn't as dominant or had as much longevity as contemporaries like Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt. Where Henderson is a living legend, Rice was merely an above-average star, a strong, silent (albeit surly) type who somehow endeared himself to Red Sox Nation. Their only mutual thread is they were both left fielders on at least two American League champions.

With Rice's induction, not to mention the entry of Bruce Sutter in 2006, Rich "Goose" Gossage in 2008, and Joe Gordon on the Veterans' Committee last month, one must wonder if the Baseball Hall of Fame is lowering their standards. The short answer is yes and no. The next two shoe-ins for induction are Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, but they're not eligible until the 2013 ballot; the next three years will be a clearinghouse for other not-quite-all-time greats, the Lee Smiths and Andre Dawsons and Edgar Martinezs of the world. Heck, maybe Bert Blyleven and his beautiful curveball can overcome a 287-250 career record and that "I Heart Farts" t-shirt to earn a call to the hall. Nonetheless, the 2010 BBWAA ballot will be a complete crapshoot, yet ripe for drama.

+ Finally, it... won't... stop... snowing. At least in Chicago, anyway. Cold as balls, too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Last Eight Years, Part 2

If President Bush had a domestic shortcoming, the first option that most of his critics would choose is Hurricane Katrina. There's no doubt in my mind that Bush was unprepared for such a catastrophe, but so was the state, county, and city government. Was the president's choosing a horse breeder to lead FEMA a greater mistake than the State of Louisiana short-cutting the construction of the levees? If anything, Bush, Governor Blanco, and Mayor Nagin are all at fault to a specific extent; no one in the state, national, and local governments prepared for this disaster, even though they knew the threat was imminent and there was plenty of time and expendable resources.

When looking back at the presidency of George W. Bush, no discussion can overlook the Valerie Plame controversy. This might be the one bullet point of his legacy where the president was more passive than aggressive; the Plame affair was the fault of his administration, and Bush merely hired and appointed the guilty parties. To publicly identify Agent Wilson as a covert CIA officer in retaliation for her husband's New York Times op-ed piece was ten different levels of stupid. I. Lewis Libby earned his punishment (sort of), but Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, and Richard Armitage are still under suspicion to this day.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the generalized public perception of our 43rd president was some bizarre postmodern performance, as if his malapropisms and occasional bungling were an act for the media. President Bush made it clear from day one that he would take a more casual approach to the highest office in the land, but to what extent did his rough edges help or hinder his legacy?

Emily (one of my regular readers at the other site) made a good point regarding Part 1; people tend to forget that 20+ years ago, the media ridiculed Ronald Reagan the same way they did with our current president. Where Dutch was portrayed as senile and aloof, especially during the Iran-Contra controversy in early 1987, Dubya was illustrated as a cowboy poseur, a trust-fund milquetoast, a manipulative huckster, and/or some combination of the three. Our 40th president had his share of critics in the media, but it pales to the scruntiny and vilification Bush received; what began as a soft, skeptical hum in January 2001 progressed into a tinnitus-like ringing in the ears by late 2008. On top of that, Reagan left office with a 63% approval rating and never sank below 46% during his eight years in the White House; President Bush's approval ratings have been consistently in the low 30s and high 20s since late 2005, and that number probably won't budge before January 20th. In comparison, Richard Nixon resigned with only 24% of the people behind his back, and Jimmy Carter's one term ended with a 34% rating.

Whatever criticism President Bush had to dodge and occasionally justify in office goes hand in hand with the average conservative's favorite punching bag, the American media and its "blatant" liberal bias. To me, partisan journalism has always existed in the same universe as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The news is inherently impartial until it hits the bottom line; the people draw an opinion on a topic, and the media sways toward said opinion for the sake of ratings and selling newspapers. The purpose of the media is to research, investigate, and question the status quo; no media figure is immune from perlustration. Where Republicans will remind us that Reagan was treated unfairly in the press, Democrats will counterclaim by pointing out the media's treatment of Bill Clinton during Whitewater and Monicagate. Every elected official has drawn criticism, it's just that Bush's critics were a bit louder than others. Simply put, pointing out a liberal bias is like chasing windmills; the media is the mirror image of the public's uncertainty.

One theory that's gone mostly untested is whether or not the core of the Republican Party failed Bush and not vice versa. After all, the GOP more or less abandoned him after the 2006 midterms, and John McCain wasn't exactly clammering for Bush's endorsement in the election. Maybe the Republicans got carried away in their power and attempted to create a society where reason, empathy, and basic decency were derided as elitist qualities by a loudmouth extremist minority that pretended to represent good ol' American values, where anyone who disagreed with said extremists was labeled an unpatriotic socialist, and that President Bush was merely doing his job in the aftermath of 9/11, providing some level of stability as the economy tanked and our nation's well-being hung in the balance. I haven't decided yet if I want to subscribe to this hypothesis, but it's certainly something to think about.

In the last few weeks, some pop culture writers have attempted to give the Bush Administration a letter grade, a broad yet theoretical report card for one of the most controversial world leaders in recent memory. I don't expect to see too many A's, talk radio apologists like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will probably give a him a high B, and most everyone else will suggest a failing grade. I would give George W. Bush a D+, though there might be enough time to budge that up to a C-. A lot can happen in two weeks; maybe he'll get out of his chair and do something about Israel, who knows?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Last Eight Years, Part 1

Originally posted on TV.com on December 16th, 2008

On January 20th, Senator Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, making the end of two crucial eras in American political history, the Reagan Revolution and its daffy offspring, the Bush Administration. The presidency of George W. Bush was one of the polarizing in American history, derided for being too partisan and imperialistic, though his dwindling number of supporters and apologists would suggest a growing political bias in the media and that Bush did the best he could leading the country in the wake of several unfortunate and devastating events. Considering that, what is George Walker Bush's place in history?

Let's begin with the obvious: Bush is not the worst president we've ever had. He wasn't a drunken figurehead like Franklin Pierce, a lightning rod of corruption and moral ambiguity like Warren G. Harding, or brought our country to the brink of Civil War like James Buchanan. On the other hand, Bush might be our worst re-elected president; he was probably just as polarizing and partisan as fellow two-termer Richard Nixon, but with a more efficient crew of spin doctors and public relations experts. As mouthpieces to the world, Dana Perino and Scott McClellan have nothing on Ron Ziegler.

In some ways, George W. Bush is the mirror image of Lyndon Baines Johnson, another president who rose to the occasion in the wake of a national tragedy. Like Dubya, LBJ began his second term (or first elected term, if you will) with his party in control of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court. Where Johnson had his Great Society initiatives, Bush had the Patriot Act. Also like our 43rd president, Johnson championed an unpopular war and left office villified by his own party in doing so. Where Bush limped Reaganomics along until it was beaten like a dead horse, Johnson was the last true New Deal Democrat, making the wayward assumption that Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era policies would still work thirty years after the fact.

Alas, that's where the comparisions end. LBJ died less than four years after leaving office, a broken and defeated man in his time but now regarded as a champion for civil rights and social security. The progressive acts that were instigated by his slain predecessor John F. Kennedy and completed by Johnson himself was enough to push the old Texan somewhere in the middle of the pantheon, his strengths and weaknesses almost cancelling each other out. It's tough to say what President Bush's saving grace will be; No Child Left Behind comes close, but this noble effort at restructuring our education system could use retooling.

Instead, the Bush Presidency will be remembered most for the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq. Where usurping and removing the Taliban from Afghanistan was a justified reaction to the 9/11 tragedy, Operation Enduring Freedom was more of a knee-jerk reaction built along a string of unseemly assumptions. Saddam Hussein had every right to be removed from power, but his downfall could've waited until after the assault in Afghanistan was completed and Osama bin Laden was captured and detained. Hussein has been dead two years now, but bin Laden is (presumably) alive and well and still unpunished for his actions. Five years since his capture, Hussein's trial and execution was a hollow victory overshadowed by President Bush's most egregious mistake, letting the most powerful terrorist in the world get off scot-free for the eerily precise execution of more than 3,000 innocent Americans.

On Tuesday, I'll resume this commentary by looking at President Bush's domestic policies.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2008, A Retrospective (Part 2)

Originally posted at TV.com on December 30th, 2008

The second half of my two-part "salute" to 2008 looks at the music that came out in the last year. Granted, I ran out of time and didn't have an opportunity to listen to several albums that have been on several other critics' best-of lists (David Byrne and Brian Eno's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today and Oracular Spectacular by MGMT, for starters), but this list stands as a fair assembledge of the sounds I enjoyed this last calendar year:

1. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend. A fun, infectuous record from four New York City college kids who treat Paul Simon's Graceland like a holy document. As a debut release, it's not the game-changer that The Strokes' Is This It was supposed to be seven years ago, but it's an awfully strong first impression.
2. Dear Science, TV on the Radio. Hands down the best album by an established band in '08, this delicious cornucopia of indie-rock, electronica, and R&B is nimble, polished, and loaded with passion.
3. In the Future, Black Mountain.
4. Shake, Rattle, and Roll!, Foxboro Hot Tubs.
5. Stay Positive, The Hold Steady.
6. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros. The title translates to "With Buzzing in Our Ears We Play Endlessly" ...and even you wish it wouldn't stop. Quite possibly the most accessible Icelandic post-rock album ever made.
7. The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot.
8. Re-arrange Us, Mates of State.
9. Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay.
10. Third, Portishead.

Honorable Mentions: Do You Like Rock Music?, British Sea Power; One Day as a Lion (EP), One Day as a Lion; Harps & Angels, Randy Newman; This Gift, Sons & Daughters.

Best Reissue: Pacific Ocean Blue, Dennis Wilson. Released with surprisingly little fanfare in 1977, the belated compact disc debut of the first Beach Boys solo album is an underrated, melancholy gem.

My ten favorite songs (not including songs that were on the aforementioned discs):

"Sex on Fire," Kings of Leon
"Re-education (Through Labor)," Rise Against
"You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie," The Submarines
"One Pure Thought," Hot Chip
"Chasing Pavements," Adele
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," Beyonce
"Love Hurts," Incubus*
"Gamma Ray," Beck
"Morning is My Destination," Tift Merritt
"White Winter Hymnal," Fleet Foxes

My favorite music videos of 2008:

1. "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?," She & Him. Old school country-rock twang meets Edward Gorey-esque gallows humor in this cute-meets-macabre clip.
2. "I Will Possess Your Heart," Death Cab for Cutie. A young woman travels the world in a search for self. I'm not giving away much else.
3. "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?," Gnarls Barkley. Warning: this video is not for the faint of heart... literally.
4. "Heartless," Kanye West. Probably the best use of rotoscoping since "American Pop."
5. "Thing for Me," Metronomy. I had to include one indie-rock clip, just to be kosher with the cool kids. Just follow the bouncing ball...

My three least favorite albums of the last year:

1. Shwayze, Shwayze. Lightweight Jason Mraz-meets-Lupe Fiasco hip-hop-pop that obsesses with the lily-white, rich SoCal kids you only see on "The Hills" with much mellow menace that it borders on narcissism.
2. One of the Guys, Katy Perry. Katy, you're a smokin' hot chick and everything, but you're recorded some of the most annoying music in recent memory. Given your past status as a Christian-pop singer, it seems like the music industry turned you into a bendable, posable, decidedly agnostic mold of clay. Don't fall prey before they spit you out.
3. Shine Through It, Terrence Howard. The latest in a long line of albums where a proven movie star cuts an album that is clearly more vanity than statement. Not godawful, just very bland.

Worst Song: "All Summer Long," Kid Rock. This dual rehash of one great '70s song ("Werewolves of London") and one that gets more credit than it deserves ("Sweet Home Alabama"), combined with Bob Ritchie's figmented recollection of a white trash beach trip circa 1989, adds up to probably the most irritating radio single of the summer. And yes, that includes "No Handlebars."

*Yes, I do realize that song was originally released in 2006, but it didn't garner any radio play until Fall '08.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008, A Retrospective (Part 1)

Originally posted at TV.com on December 23rd, 2008

From a personal standpoint, 2008 was a very topsy-turvy year. After graduating from college in December 2007, I began the year looking for a job in the communications field, specifically in radio. While searching for said job I ran errands for my uncle at his insurance office, and for a brief period I worked at the campus bookstore at Lewis University and even did some substitute teaching. In May I landed my current position as traffic assistant at Salem, and in November I also became the office receptionist. Of course, the most polarizing event of the last year was my uncle's struggle with pancreatic cancer, a battle he lost on October 30th. Luckily, I had a number of distractions that kept me sane in '08, which I've posted below:

Here are my five favorite TV series in 2008:
1. "The Colbert Report," Comedy Central. This year marked the most important presidential election in recent memory, and more often than not the cable news outlets bungled their coverage. Luckily, the faux egomaniac we've come to know and love as Stephen Colbert found pure comedy in the unintentional hilarity of ADHD-stricken 24-hour news.
2. "30 Rock," NBC. The recent influx of special guest stars (Oprah! Steve Martin! Markie Post?) was a bit much, I won't debate that, but this was the year that Tina Fey became the undisputed queen of American comedy. Her kingdom was built upon a hit movie ("Baby Mama"), a vicious, uncanny, yet highly relevant imitation (Gov. Sarah Palin), and the funniest episode of any TV show since "Arrested Development" was cancelled (last April's "Subway Hero").
3. "The Office," NBC. After an uneven start to its fourth season, the hit NBC comedy came back roaring after the strike. The multi-episode story arc with Oscar nominee Amy Ryan brought out the best in Steve Carell; the whirlwind of emotions that he expressed as he found --and ultimately lost-- his true soulmate makes you wonder why he hasn't won an Emmy yet.
4. "The Daily Show," Comedy Central. This probably would've finished second if not for Rob Riggle's unfunny "Ugly American" schtick, especially when he confused the Wailing Wall with the Great Wall of China. Other than that, the campaign coverage was as top-notch as ever.
5. "Mad Men," AMC. When it came to TV drama in the last 12 months, no show was as well-acted, nuanced, and took advantage of its large ensamble as this chronicle of the ad executives at Sterling Cooper.

In turn, these were the three I disliked the most:
1. "Hole in the Wall," Fox. People in bicycle helmets and pastel unitards have to pose in a particular fashion to fit through a slot in a giant, moving wall. This was a game show... seriously.
2. "Kath & Kim," NBC. The problem with this freshman comedy isn't Molly Shannon or Selma Blair; granted, Molly has a history of being over-the-top zany and it's hard to find anything likable about Blair's character, a selfish, chronic-unemployable man-child. The true culprit is the writing; whoever adapted this series from Australia simply doesn't know how to write dialogue. Your average piece of internet fan-fiction is more nuanced than this.
3. VH1 Celebreality. Three words: "I Love Money." Two more words: "Charm School." At the rate the basic cable channel's reality programming is going, this will have a permanent spot on my "worst" list for years to come.

Other achievements:
Most Improved: "American Dad," Fox. No bones about it, this show will always live in the shadow of the cultural phenomenon that is "Family Guy." However, so far this season the overall aesthetic of "Dad" has run laps around FG's increasingly tired non-linear writing and near-constant meta references. Where FG saturates the laugh quotient, "Dad" emphasizes the storyline and more than just two or three protagonists. Case in point: "Escape from Pearl Bailey," a clever send-up of a certain 1981 Kurt Russell movie and a satire on the diversity of high school cliques.
Least Necessary Remake: "Knight Rider."
Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Moustache Sciences: Grant Show on "Swingtown" and Michael Imperioli on "Life on Mars."
Most Outrageous TV Moment: This.
My Most Anticipated Returning Series of 2009: "24" and "Flight of the Conchords."

I only saw three movies in a theater this year, "The Dark Knight" (which I enjoyed) "Wall*E" (ditto), and "Mamma Mia" (not my cup of tea). I posted reviews over at MovieTome if anybody's interested.

As my MySpace profile states, I've read the first 20 pages of some of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. On that note, I'm still halfway through The Onion's "Our Dumb World," which I received as a Christmas gift in 2007. When I do sit down and read, I go for the same magazines I've been perusing for the last decade or so: Time, Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker, and ESPN.

Number of applications I filled for open positions at radio stations before landing my current job: 38
Number of interviews from said applications: 2
Number that responded either by e-mail or form letter to tell me I didn't get the job: 8
Number of times I attempted to grow a beard: 2
Milestone I forgot to acknowledge: Cracking Level 60 at TV.com, mid-October.
Weirdest Brush with Celebrity: On December 16th, Michael Medved asked me for directions to the men's washroom.
Cutest Photo of My Dog: See above.
Rest in Peace:
Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Sydney Pollack, Robert Prosky, Paul Benedict, Estelle Getty, Suzanne Pleshette, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Harvey Korman, William F. Buckley Jr., Arthur C. Clarke, Studs Terkel, Tim Russert, W. Mark Felt, Bettie Page, Cyd Charisse, Eartha Kitt, Bernie Brillstein, Bennigan's (sort of), Herb Score, Dock Ellis, the Seattle Supersonics, Bill Melendez, Isaac Hayes, Richard Wright, Mitch Mitchell, Delaney Bramlett, Danny Federici, James C. Swiglo.
Tomorrow, I'll re-post my music picks for '08.