12/29/2011

Best & Worst of 2011 - Culture & Society

At midnight, Dec 31, we'll consign another year to the history books.  What will 2011's lasting contributions be to culture and society?  If you go by this list, some good, some bad, and a whole lot of indifferent.
  1. Gay Rights. Same-sex marriage was approved by New York, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was finally abolished, and violence/cruelty against gays was openly challenged in 2011 when, spurred by the suicide of several bullied gay men, Youtube blossomed with "It Gets Better" testimonials from celebrities and/or gay adults, encouraging gay teens to hang in there.
  2. 15 Minutes of Fame/Infamy.  Every year contributes a number of whince-worthy moments to the public consciousness.  Here's a round-up of some of the worst 2011 had to offer.
    1. Casey Anderson trial.  After a media spectacle to rival the opening ceremony of the Olympics, she was found not guilty of murdering her child, apparently by the same jury that freed O.J. Simpson. 
    2. Kim Kardashian wedding.  It was grotesquely lavish ... and then, 72 days later, it was over, when the bride and groom announced that they were having the whole thing annulled.  Back in the olden days, they used to call this kind of thing a "publicity stunt."
    3. Charlie Sheen, star of the highly successful sitcom, 2 1/2 Men, went publicly bonkers.  Stars do stupid things all the time, of course, but few will ever be able to match the verve and tenacity with which Sheen set about publicly destroying his credibility and career. 
    4. Jerry Sandusky/Penn State sexual abuse scandal.  The news that beloved Penn State football coach Sandusky may have been sexually abusing young boys for decades was appalling, tawdry, and a blow to Penn State alum everywhere.
    5. Athony Weiner's "weiner pic".  The real question isn't why a politician would do something so stupid as to forward a pic of his private parts to a woman he'd met over the internet; but why men think that this is something women want to see.
    6. Throckmorton aka "Niggerhead".  The name of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Texs ranch.  Really.  Couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
    7. It's the End of the World.  This according to Harold Camping, a christian evangelist.  No, really, he was absolutely, positively sure this time that it would come on Oct 21.  And then it didn't.  :-(
  3. The world of books welcomed The Pale King, a half-finished MS left behind by David Foster Wallace.  If you weren't a member of the literati, however, you were probably reading either the Hunger Games series (if you were a girl), the Game of Thrones series (if you were a dude),the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (if you were a kid), or one of the many book group books made into movies this year, a cohort that included The Help, Water for Elephants, The Lincoln Lawyer, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  For a change, we even read some non-fiction this year, a list headed by The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and footnoted by a bio of wunderkind Steve Jobs.  Familiar authors still topping the best seller charts after all these years: John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, Steven King, Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Janet Evonavich, David Baldacci, Nora Roberts, and Dean Koontz. 
  4. One way to cope with the stress of the ongoing recession: angry birds.  Hard to believe there's an American who didn't at some point during the year download this game onto at least one of their electronic devices. Even my parents played it.  It's like the pigs were Wall Street, and the birds were us.
  5. Meanwhile, the rest of the tech world was dominated by Kindle Fire, Siri, and iPad2, signs that the great Convergence - the great Media Convergence, that is - can't be far away.
  6. On Broadway, singing Mormons dominated the year, as the contagiously irreverent Book of Mormon pretty much swept the Tonys. 
  7. Another way to cope with the recession was extreme couponing.  Whole cable shows were devoted to demonstrating how, with the aid of scissors, patience, and 100 copies of the Sunday newspaper, ordinary folk filled their basements with a lifetime's supply of mustard, pasta, and Hidden Ranch salad dressing for pennies a week.  Now all we have to do is figure out more recipes that require the use of mustard, pasta, and salad dressing.
  8. Girls ruled pop music in 2011, with Adele, Kate Perry, Rihanna, K$sha, and Lady Gaga dominating the charts.  Even my parents downloaded "Firework". (Maybe they listen to it while they're playing Angry Birds.)
  9. In sports, the Packers topped the Steelers in the Superbowl, the Cardinals triumphed over the Rangers in the World Series, and the Bruins took hockey's Stanley Cup. 
  10. Memorable memes of the year included the White House "situation room" at the moment Bin Laden was assassinated, pepper spraying cops, a teenager named Rebecca Black starring in a really bad music video, first world problems, planking, a taxadermist named Chuck Testa, and a loser named Scumbag Steve.
  11. In: Skyrim, Portal 2, Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3, crowdsourcing, pretzel chips, fairy tales, teebowing, novelty vodka, groupons, fur, lobster shoes, Ray Gosling, royalty, Dr. Who, Sesame Street knit hats, honeybadgers, downsizing your life, facetiming, China as a global power
  12. Out: Halo, flash mobs, electric cars, pita chips, teeth whitening, vampires, flu pandemics, Sarah Palin, Abercrombie & Fitch, foregoing vaccinations, skyping, U.S. as a global power
  13. Deaths:
    1. Steve Jobs (Apple Co. founder & visionary)
    2. Amy Winehouse (troubled singer)
    3. Osama Bin Laden (terrorist leader behidn the 9/11 attacks)
    4. Mohmar Ghadafi (long-time dictator of Lybia)
    5. Borders bookstore
    6. Kim Jung Il (dictator of North Korea)
    7. Andy Rooney (humorist and long-time 60 Minutes correspondent)
    8. Betty Ford (wife of Pres. Gerald Ford & drug/alcohol abuse spokesperson)
    9. Elizabeth Taylor (legendary actress)
    10. Geraldine Feraro (vice presidential candidate)
    11. Joe Frazier (boxer)
    12. Gen. John Shalikashvili (Desert Storm CEO)
    13. Richard Holbrooke (diplomat)
    14. the last U.S. WWI veteran (aged 110)
  14.  Quote of the Year:  "We are the 99 percent." — Occupy movement

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