Archive for December, 2009

New Year’s Eve

I don’t mean to make a habit out of posts that bash beloved holidays (watch out, Arbor Day!), but I feel the need to address tonight’s celebration of the New Year. It’s not that I hate New Year’s like I hate Christmas—I don’t. I just think New Year’s Eve is a poorly conceived holiday.

New Year’s Eve is a celebration built around a technicality. The Gregorian calendar lasts twelve months, but “beginning” in January is totally arbitrary. A continuous revolution, such as the Earth’s around the Sun, has no beginning and no end. In fact, because the length of the aforementioned revolution is technically slightly longer than 365 days (hence the need for Leap years), New Year’s Eve isn’t even consistent on which point signifies a “new” year. (Not to mention the fact that the current calendar has been altered and revised so many times throughout history that historical years have not always even been the same length, let alone had the same starting point.) Continue reading

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Aught Lang Syne: What John S Is Looking Forward To….

In this final installment Aught Lang Syne’s conclusion, John S presents what he is looking forward to in the coming decade. In case you missed it, Josh posted what he is anticipating here, and Tim posted his here. We at NPI hope you’ve enjoyed our retrospective on the Aughts.

In the Teens, I’m looking forward to….

…A Suitable Name for a Decade: Were we happy with “the Aughts”? Of course not. But we stuck with it for the sake of consistency. And even if it won’t be accurate for 30% of the decade, at least all the 2019 decade retrospectives will refer it as “the Teens.”

…The Future of Television: I’ve already touched on this, but television is currently at a crossroads. If anything, things have become more dire for the old model. Network television is apparently on its way out, and free television may be a casualty. This, of course, may have disastrous consequences: With free TV gone, shows’ budgets may be severely restricted. As a result, shows will not be able to have big casts, shoot extensively on location, or attract the best talent. In other words, the Golden Age of TV will be over.

It’s probably inevitable that television will undergo some growing pains, but I think that ultimately the industry will get stronger. The evolution away from the old network model will actually be conducive to more innovative programming. Broad hits like CSI and American Idol may suffer, but shows like Mad Men—which is already on pay-cable and maintains a large cast, original sets, and great actors—ought to be able to survive. In fact, the cable model, which is what people say we are drifting towards now, already produces most of the best television. No matter what, though, it will be fascinating to watch a medium that is hitting its creative stride at the precise moment that it faces logistical upheaval.   Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: What Tim Is Looking Forward to in the Teens

In the Teens, I’m looking forward to…

…the career arc of LeBron James.

As of right now, the basketball populace seems more sure that LeBron James is the Player of the Next Decade than that Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal is the Player of This One. We know that LeBron James is phenomenal now and that he will only continue to get better. But we still don’t know the extent of that improvement or where it will take place. Will James stick with his hometown Cavaliers or spurn them and become the most significant free-agent signing in sports history? If the latter, is it for the bright lights and crappy teammates of Madison Square Garden? The allure of eclipsing Jordan in Chicago? Or teaming up with Wade in Miami or Durant in, gasp, Oklahoma City?

This last question leads to the next one: Who will be James’s primary rival? Will Wade or Durant or Carmelo Anthony raise their games to the required levels to consistently compete with LeBron? Or will he, like Jordan, be too far above them to even be compared to another individual?

LeBron James will be the most culturally significant athlete of the Teens; it’s all a matter of how and where.

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Aught Lang Syne: What Josh Is Looking Forward To Next Decade

In a three part conclusion to Aught Lang Syne, we at NPI turn our attention away from the past and towards the future. Josh presents what he’s looking forward to in the Teens. Tim and John S’s posts on the matter will follow this afternoon.

In the Teens, I am looking forward to…


…The Next Film that Charlie Kaufman Writes and Directs: Charlie Kaufman (who looks kind of like Malcolm Gladwell, doesn’t he?) wrote arguably the best film of the Aughts, despite what John S doesn’t have to say. Being John Malkovich, a great film too, just missed the Aughts, and he wrote the screenplay for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, one of the better films of the Aughts. And, Adaptation ain’t too shabby either. Wired has rightly pegged Kaufman as Hollywood’s brainiest screenwriter, and the themes and developments in his movies force you to consider and reconsider psychological and cognitive scientific assumptions. And, he seems to have a knack for generating excellent acting performances (see Sam Rockwell in Confessions, Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine, and Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich, among others).   Kaufman wrote one film this decade—Synecdoche, NYwhich tried very hard to be groundbreaking and innovative but unfortunately bordered on incomprehensibility. But, Kaufman is too talented not to try again and it may just result in one of the best movies of the Teens.

…Whether Lacrosse Becomes a Major Sport: I’m finally reading The Tipping Point, which has gotten me thinking about what’s going to tip in a variety of domains. Of course, much of tipping is due to luck—though not arbitrary luck—which is why I’m so intrigued about whether lacrosse is going to become a major sport. Bill Simmons implies that it is going to tip soon, largely because it’s a safer sport than football. If it does, this would be the first time a sport—not initially major—has became a major sport in a VERY long time, arguably since basketball in the 1950s. Although, I sincerely hope it doesn’t come at the expense of football, which has become in recent years, unquestionably, my favorite sport to watch.
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Aught Lang Syne: The Shoe Toss

After John S wrote what, in blog terms, amounts to a thesis on the presidency of George W. Bush earlier today, I figured I’d be a bit more visceral.

In my older less vulnerable years, when I consider our 43rd president, my first thought will be of his physical reflexes, of the moment when George W. Bush proved that he could dodge the shoes of journalists as well as his administration did their questions.

It is hard for me to imagine any other sitting president of the United States inspiring enough ire to compel a foreign journalist to take off his shoes and fling them one at a time at him. It is harder still to imagine America itself being as amused by the whole situation if it had happened to any other president in our history. I doubt there would have been editorials extolling the journalist as a hero, top 10 lists for why the whole event was “completely awesome,” or dozens of Internet games that allowed you to play the role of the first-person shoe thrower if some Soviet scribe had thrown his footwear at FDR in Yalta.*

*A perhaps unfair analogy for several reasons, the least of which is the lack of the Internet in 1940s USSR.

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Aught Lang Syne: George W. Bush

Thus far, our retrospective on the 2000s has focused mainly on “trivial” pop culture issues: things like what books we liked, which movies were good, whose album was the best, what sports team was the most memorable, etc. We’ve completely ignored things like 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the recession. Part of this is merely out of prudence: We like to show restraint in areas that seem to require some expertise. It’s also been out of charity: Unlike Mark Antony, we come to praise the Aughts, not to bury them, so focusing on the darker aspects of the Aughts is beyond our stated purpose.

Any look at this decade, though, would feel horribly insufficient without a look at the presidency of George W. Bush. Like no other single individual, President Bush defined the Aughts. Indeed, Bush may have defined the Aughts more than anyone has defined a decade since Julius Caesar—his global impact is that wide.

At this point, though, criticizing Bush is kind of like setting fire to an already beaten and bloodied horse carcass. After all, the failures of Bush are common knowledge by now, right? Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: Rivalries of the Decade

Here’s what makes rivalries so great: There will come a time in the moments before the game starts where you as a fan will feel internally a contradiction between the overwhelming excitement at the thought of beating your rival and the crippling fear at the idea that you might lose to them. It will be great, or it will be terrible. There is no in-between in rivalry games. There is nothing else in sports that provokes such a paradoxical sentiment in a fan.

That’s why we’re taking the time to figure out, “What was the best sports rivalry of the Aughts?” John S, Tim, and Pierre all took different stances on this one, and they anxiously await your opinions. After all, they’re kind of rivals themselves. Continue reading