2009: This Was That Year What Was

2009: This Was That Year What Was

Jan 04

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I keep seeing people complaining about what a crummy year 2009 was. Maybe it’s the afterglow of the holidays talking but I thought 2009 was a perfectly serviceable year. Personally, it was full of the usual ups and downs, with a few really good “ups” to boot, namely the birth of my son, who is adorable and perfect, thanks for asking.

Pop culturally, there was plenty of bullshit but certainly no more or less than any other year. Bubble Boy, Sookie, and the tragic Michael Jackson deahth show would just as easily have gone down in any other annum.

I have a lousy memory for these things, but here’s a few geeky things that stand out for me from 2009. It goes without saying that the best things about the year were my wonderful family and friends, and that is sure to continue into 2010 and beyond. These are just the dweeby highlights:

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Star Trek: If I had seen more than 3 movies at the show this year, I’d feel more confident naming this the best movie of the year. It is easily my favorite anything of 2009. I can’t speak for casual fans but I think there’s a certain stripe of lapsed Trekkie for whom this movie felt like a homecoming, a validation, and a brave new start, all at the same time. Let’s put it this way: It’s got me buying Trek comics again for the first time since high school. It’s good to be back.

Ben Folds at Hard Rock: The best show I saw in 2009 is the only show I saw in 2009. With a kid and now another kid, concerts are a rare luxury rather than a “hey, it’s Thursday, let’s go hear a band” type decision. Folds absolutely tore the roof off the place and since he hadn’t played Orlando in several years, he dipped into lots of older material which was very fun. My favorite part was his live illustration of “prepared piano,” a technique he used to achieve a warped and almost computerish sound for a track on his latest album. Turns out all you really need is an Altoid box to stick on the strings. Who knew?

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Amazing Spider-Man: I read lots of great comics in 2009–Grant Morrison’s stuff, Johnny Hiro Vol. 1, Parker The Hunter, Incredible Hercules, The Killer, Criminal, The Mighty. But if I had to say which comic I looked forward to reading most week in and week out, it’d have to be Amazing Spider-Man. I personally think the “One More Day” storyline was idiotic, but at this point, I don’t care. I love where things are now; there are some amazingly clever comics minds at work on this book (Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Fred Van Lente, and more) and the art is often astonishingly good (Marcos Flippin’ Martin, on a weekly book? No shit?!). It comes out three times a month and frankly is way better than it has any right to be; in a Marvel Universe that often gets lost deep within its own dark allegories, this is a sharp and bright ray of pure pop comics fun. Hell, just Waid’s issues alone are all textbook examples of how to write creative and smart comics within a shared corporate superhero universe.

The Wire: So this show is a few years old but I just watched it in 2009 so fuck you anyway. Greatest TV series of all time? Probably in my own personal top five. I think the early seasons especially relied a bit too heavily on cliche and that there’s some pretty ugly gender politics percolating between a few of the show’s key characters. Also, I think I overall prefer the slight unreality of The Sopranos to the pure grit of The Wire. I personally put BSG up in there too, grappling for its own geeky rank.

Still, though, TOP FIVE OF ALL TIME. What an amazing use of television; what a remarkable cast of characters and collection of ideas. Any single one of the leads throughout this series, and many of the supporting characters to boot, were colorful enough to support their own far dumber show on network TV; yet here they all were, bouncing off one another in Baltimore. A show so good it was painful to see the last episode; I want just a few more Bunk one-liners, one more Jimmy McNulty self-destructive caper, one more painted doll house dresser from Lester Freamon. And as much more Omar as I could handle.

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Jack Kirby’s The Losers: As 2010 dawns, I feel like my comics buying habits are finally correcting themselves toward the direction of collected editions (“waiting for the trade”) and lotsa reprints and obscure back issues. The reprint that made the biggest impact on me in 2009 was this DC collection of Kirby’s World War II series from the seventies. I’ve become a Kirby nut overall in the past couple years, but these stories really knocked me out–packed with the expected Kirby energy and bombast, but with an extra level of focus that isn’t always present in his more whacked-out cosmic work. Not that I dislike the whacked-out cosmic; it’s one of my favorite elements of his work. But knowing about Kirby’s own experiences on the front lines in WWII, the extra layer of reality on these tales has an additional impact.

The Beatles Remasters: A quick stroll through iTunes shows that I bought a depressingly low amount of new music in 2009. The latest from Weezer and Springsteen, both of whom are long-time favorites so I’d buy anything they put out; the Star Trek score; the new Art Brut. Instead I seem to have subsisted on a steady diet of Springsteen bootlegs and these Beatle reissues. The mono remasters are a revelation to me; I’d never heard them this way, basically as the Fabs intended for the most part, and they pack this tremendous kick blared over car speakers. Between this, Star Trek, Spider-Man, Ben Folds…I guess maybe you do reach an age where it’s less about discovering the new in pop culture and just reappreciating all the great old shit that’s still going strong.

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My iPhone: I got my iPhone in early December and it has already changed my life. Seriously, like totally, you have no idea. I am sad in my obsession with the device. It consistently astounds me that I can basically do pretty much everything I’d do with a laptop or desktop computer from a device that fits in my pocket. Granted, not every task is nearly as easy as it would be on a real computer, but so many tasks are in fact pretty damn easy that it’s pretty much always in my hands for tweeting, blogging, catching up on my RSS feeds, reading comics and books, playing games, tracking my caloric intake (yay 2010 for losing some serious weight). Good lord, it IS a Mother Box.

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