Thursday, January 04, 2007

2006 - All that will be remembered is "Crazy"

We Americans love our nostalgia don't we? I do. Thus, the ritualized "year in review" stuff is always fun in that regard. Even years like this.

So, this here's a slamdance through the "year in review" according to moi. (My abrupt segue reminds me of that old joke about redneck foreplay, which consists solely of, "Brace yourself, Marge.")

Let's start with the top grossing movies:

1. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," $423.3 million
2. "Cars," $244.1 million
3. "X-Men: The Last Stand," $234.4 million
4. "The Da Vinci Code," $217.5 million
5. "Superman Returns," $200.1 million
6. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," $195.3 million
7. "Happy Feet," $176.2 million
8. "Over the Hedge," $155.0 million
9. "Casino Royale," $153.4 million
10. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," $148.2 million
Source: CNN

Boy, but ain't Hollywood in a slump? Cartoons and comics rule the day. Nothing much wrong with that, but grown-ups just didn't have a lot to choose from this year, eh?

I saw all of those, except 7, 9, and 10. I'll see 7 and 9 on DVD, but not 10, the Nascar sendup. The entertainment folks on the coasts paint rednecks with such a broad brush anymore (Think, "My Name is Earl"), that "The Beverly Hillbillies" was subtle in comparison.

Of those movies I saw, I was mostly entertained. "Da Vinci" was dull, surprisingly, because the book - as preposterous as the premise was - was a page-turner. I thought "Cars" was a retread of every sports movie ever made (the "big show-down" genre, not the "he dies at the end" genre). "Pirates" was a messy, loud popcorn movie that was more grotesque than it needed to be, but today's kids don't seem to bat an eye at a thing with a realistic octopus for a head. The superhero movies entertained in the moment, but I'd have to work to recall the plots. The only sticky image was Superman's unconscious plunge to earth after he tossed "Manhattan Island, the sequel" into space. "Ice Age" had the best jokes.

My favorite this year was The Matador, a sleeper at best.

How about music?

Top 10 best-selling albums released in 2006 (worldwide):

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
2. High School Musical - High School Musical Soundtrack
3. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex / LoveSounds
4. Rascal Flatts - Me And My Gang
5. Pink - I'm Not Dead
6. Nelly Furtado - Loose
7. Beyonce - B'Day
8. Andrea Bocelli - Amore
9. Evanescence - The Open Door
10. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere

I've heard 10, 7, 5, and 2 (Lord help me), and only 10 was worth the time and electricity. Though, to be honest, I don't play the whole CD because it has rap on it. I have cherry-picked the bouncy hits for MP3 players, and have probably shelved the CD for good.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers begin to sound the same to me after a couple tunes, so I didn't even give it a courtesy listen. I've got 3 on hold at the library, since it has ended up on a lot of "best of" lists this year, though my hopes aren't high, given the fact that "High School Musical" is the best selling album of the year (on some lists), and the fact that he's the alumni of a boy band.

The 10 Top Singles were:

1. Bad Day - Daniel Powter
2. Temperature - Sean Paul
3. Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
4. You're Beautiful - James Blunt
5. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean
6. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
7. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
8. Ridin' - Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone
9. SexyBack - Justin Timberlake
10. Check on It - Beyoncé featuring Slim Thug

Of those, I've heard only 1, 4 (Lord help me), and 7. 7 was the only one I liked. 4 still tickles my gag reflex if I'm trapped in public with it blaring over the soundsystem of the store/restaurant. I even have trouble listening to Weird Al's parody of it, though Al's reedy voice oddly makes it more tolerable than the muppet-like vocal of the original song.

The music industry has largely faced up to the fact that it's not illegal downloads that're kneecapping the industry (it's the sucky music, stupid). However, I read somewhere that the major labels will not sign an act that's over the age of 25, so they still haven't learned all the lessons they need to, apparently.
Update: "Album sales in the U.S. were down 4.9 percent in 2006, the seventh straight year of decline, while digital downloads jumped 65 percent over 2005's numbers. Selling 3.7 million records, Disney's "High School Musical" soundtrack was the year's best-selling album, but it was also the lowest-selling No. 1 album in the 15 years SoundScan has been keeping track." (via Salon, via Variety)

Radio stations are up for sale in droves, but no one's buying because no one above the age of 25 is listening to radio. (Won't it be nice if radio comes back someday? I've always wanted to run one. Hmm....)

The only two CDs I still play that I bought this year are Morph the Cat by Donald Fagen, and At War with the Mystics by the Flaming Lips. Oh, wait, there's also Andy Narell, whom I discovered on a Windam Hill disc because MPC2 loves going to sleep listening to "smooth jazz." It's essentially steel drum jazz, believe it or not, and I find it interestingly soothing and stimulating at the same time.

Either this coming year will be a worse year in music, and you'll see reports of layoffs and selloffs re the major labels, or this will be one of those years the pendulum swings back, and we get a bunch of new good music via the labels trying to save themselves by releasing anything and everything. I bet on the prior because radio's still broken, and if you can't get the tunes out to the people, they don't go to the store.

Found two sites that posted "best of" free MP3 lists. So far, I like a handful of the songs. Check'em out:
- Salon
- Iheartmusic

I think when people look back to this year in media, the only thing that will end up anthologized and remembered is "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley (though I think "Smiley Faces" is the superior song).

I researched the best book lists for this post, but didn't find much there that inspired me to write about it.

Off the top of my head, I don't recall reading any fiction this year that really grabbed me. I seem to recall liking S. King's Cell, but that's all that comes to mind.

I finally encountered a great little tome that tackled most of the issues facing Christianity today entitled, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus, by N. T. Wright. It's scholarly and entertaining - two worlds that often don't intersect - and it covers a fun gamut of false gospels, Gnosticism, church history, modern critiques of the faith, and so on. Fellow Christians should definitely give it a look, and, for that matter, anyone who wants a brief overview of the stances of modern, orthodox Christianity (I'm casting that net rather wide to include Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, and all Protestant variants that don't claim a modern prophet).

Looking back over the blog, I recall that I also liked Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. (Though only the paperback was released in 2006.)

Wow. Just three standouts. Maybe I should cut back on my reading if those are the remains of the day, considering all the books I've read this year.

Of course the big story outside of the entertainment world was the Republicans getting swept out of power for being shitheads by advertising themselves as conservatives for smaller govt. but then proceeding with the biggest, unconstitutional powergrab in American history whilst reconstituting the Nixon administration in all of its putrid glory - sans intelligence, of course. (My favorite summary is still, "Monica Lewinsky had more president in her than Bush ever will.")

Though it officially kicked off last year with the publishing of two (or three, depending on how you cound) new atheist hymnals (and I only use those terms because it pisses them off so much) by Dawkins and Harris, fundie atheist evangelism begins to mount in the new year on Digg and Youtube (via This article provides a nice summary and some pretty thorough linkage.

Most of the missionary work centers around mocking Christianity and declaring believers to be of lesser intelligence and education than atheists, so of course things aren't going so well for that effort. (Maybe a little Marketing 101 is in order for our brethren of supposed superior intellect who envision only a void in the God-shaped hole in our souls, which don't exist, of course.)

One of the more annoying elements in this movement is the simplistic (mis)understanding of Christianity that most of the self-professed, fundie atheists have. They would do well to read N. T. Wright's book, linked to above.

(And let me re-state that I have absolutely nothing against atheists or atheism whatsoever. Whatever your views on God, the afterlife, the lack thereof, etc. are fine with me - as long as it never moves to suggestions of violence or suppression. My issue is that a lot of fundie atheists (just like some fundie Christians and Moslems) get kinda strident about suppression, and Sam Harris has offered execution of Christians as one possible means of achieving a religion-free utopia. Sorry, but you can fuck off, Mr. Harris.)

Supposedly Saddam took the big swing into eternity, and you can view it on Youtube, so I did. ...I dunno... After he drops, there's a long gap in the video before we are shown his face, cocked up beneath the knot. He doesn't look very dead to me. From what I understand, that particular type of death shows pretty clearly on the face. Don't be surprised if he joins the conspiracy nut list of someone who's presumed to be not really dead.

Finally, Slate has a nice roundup of "the year in culture" which concludes this post better than I could.

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