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Getting Through the '00s

By admin Published: December 31, 2009

I thought about posting lists of favorite shows, movies and so on for the decade. But, well, I got lazy. And have been on vacation. And have played too much Wii. But here are nine pop-culture items (aren't you very tired of top tens?), in no special order, that helped get me through the last decade:

1. The MP3 and music downloads. My latest is an iPod, currently loaded with 6,000 songs from downloads and transferred CDs, some organized into playlists, others just there for the mood swing. It's at the point where I am having to clear out some things, or to transfer downloads to disc, because I know that I will want to put more in there. And while I love the pilgrimage to record stores (I'll try to get by in January, Time Traveler), I also love the impulse of hearing a song on the radio or TV, then hopping online to download it and relish it more. And that I can take so much with me when I travel.

2. "Love Actually." I have worn you all down with my praise of it, but it remains my favorite movie of the decade.

3. The films of Clint Eastwood. If I had to choose the Director of the '00s, as I have already argued in one of my videos, Eastwood would most likely be it. Like Springsteen, not always great. But in what for many would be waning years of age, he has offered us "Million Dollar Baby," "Gran Torino," "Flags of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima," and more films beside. Try to find someone else who matches him in terms of consistent quality during steady output. Also, he reclaimed "Invictus" from Timothy McVeigh.

4. Bruce Springsteen. He wasn't always great in the decade. But he gave us "The Rising"; a great live album (from a tour I took my sons to), and the Seeger sessions, as well as serving both as a social-historical conscience and a lover of rock music.

5. Cable dramas. Since individually they might dominate a list like this, I offer collectively the likes of "The Sopranos," "The Shield," "The Wire," "Mad Men." You may insert other names -- "Deadwood," say, or "Carnivale." I might, too. I have singled out these four as exemplars because each has had moments of joy and anguish, has asked tough questions about our culture, and presented transcendent scenes. Think of the "family meeting" on "The Shield," or Don Draper falling for his own mythmaking in a slide show, or the final moments of "The Wire," or the challenging (if infuriating to some) end of "The Sopranos."

6. The DVR. Malcolm X Abram and I have a long story in Sunday's Beacon Journal about the decade in tech, and the DVR is in there. Hard to believe that less than 10 years ago I was still piling up videotapes, often unlabeled, hard to sort through, erratic in picture quality. The DVR has its difficulties -- and I have had a lot of problems with getting them to perform consistently -- and I still have a couple of VCRs set up for checking out archives. But the DVR has shone for its ease of use and its siren cry to watch things instead of leaving them to rot in a tape pile.

7. Rediscovering literature. I have tried to be well-read, if only to make up for gaps in my knowledge. As Paul Johnson says of Winston Churchill, "There were always gaps, he felt, in his knowledge, which he eagerly filled when vital books were recommended to him." But my heavy lifting tended toward nonfiction, and American history and politics, leaving still enormous gaps. So when I started back to school a little over a year ago, I found myself wrestling with Edith Wharton and Henry James, Lord Rochester and Alexander Pope, Aphra Behn and Frances Burney, with Hawthorne and Melville looming in January. I can't pretend to have understood it all -- Pope was especially difficult -- but I loved the act of grappling with it, and found pleasures I did not expect, arguments I had not had to make. Somewhere in my pop-culture soul is the old college English major, and this time I have freed him with more purpose than he had close to 40 years ago.

8. The great online conversation. YouTube, Facebook, blogging, Twitter, podcasts, vodcasts -- you know I'm a fan and participant. I love this massive chat we are all having, regardless of place and background; it's not always civil, or even fun, and the idea of keeping up across all venues can be exhausting. (My other blog has suffered badly from neglect.) But I keep wanting to talk, and to listen, and through the whole process to learn.

9. The "Harry Potter" novels. I was slow getting to this dance. But I am not one for devouring print series of anything, and these demanded my attention, and then kept it. As I have mentioned before, the bride and I went on a vacation where I hauled along the first few for beach reading; before the vacation was done, I had finished what I had brought and hit a bookstore for the next volumes. And yes, I was in one of those midnight lines for the last book. What a joy to see people embrace epic reading in that way.

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