Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year of Living Painfully

Maybe it's fitting that I've had a line from, of all things, a movie by crap auteur Michael Bay running through my head as 2009 finally, mercifully draws to a close.

It's from Armageddon -- when Bruce Willis's character and his crew of roughnecks have successfully drilled through to the core of the killer asteroid and are preparing to drop a nuclear bomb into the hole that will blow the whole thing to kingdom come. Suddenly, the environment on the asteroid becomes even more volatile -- explosive gas vents going off all over the place and violent quakes that throw the astronauts this way and that way -- causing Willis to say something about how it's obvious the rock they're hurtling toward Earth on doesn't like them being there. That's when Will Patton's character responds determinedly, "That's because it knows we're here to kill it."

Is there a better way to account for what we've witnessed in the climactic, chaotic final days of a year that's been almost universally held up for contempt? A massive winter storm that socked most of the country, an attempted "underwear bombing" on-board a packed commercial airliner leading to pandemonium for holiday travelers, another shocking celebrity death adding one last exclamatory notch on the scythe of a Reaper who seemed to rarely rest in 2009. I can't help but think that it's probably a good idea to spend the next two days cowering under a desk somewhere with your head down, praying that a solar flare doesn't cook us all before the clock can strike midnight on Thursday putting this God-forsaken year to rest once and for all. 48 hours is plenty of time for 2009 to kill everyone it hasn't gotten to yet.

It's saying something when the epic awfulness of the aforementioned Michael Bay's Transformers 2 was the least terrible thing we as a nation were forced to endure this year.

So what can I possibly add to any final assessment of 2009? What's a suitable epitaph for a year that ends the most painful decade many of us have seen in our lifetimes -- a year that itself gave us a near daily gangbang of unrelenting absurdity and positively malignant stupidity? How can anyone spin shit into comedy gold and turn a clever phrase or two that might at the very least alleviate the profoundly depressing nature of 2009 by some small measure?

Maybe someone can -- but I can't.

And that's why, as much as it pains me to say this because I have no choice but to consider it a concession of defeat, a dereliction of duty on my part, there's just no way in hell that I'm going to be able to crank out the year-end piece that I promised a couple of weeks ago -- something that looks back and heaps appropriately humorous ridicule on the most offensive people and events of 2009.

Why? Simple. Because it was all offensive.

I've spent the past several days sitting in front of my open laptop, letting its little flashing cursor mock my inability to put into words what I want -- what I need -- to say about all that we've witnessed in 2009. One of the most fundamental problems I've encountered is that there's just no way I could offer any surprises in a list that counted down the "worst of the worst" of this past year. You already know who the worst people were; you've been reading about them here and everywhere else -- thanks to a slavishly obsessive media that thrives on conflict and elevates those who engage in it for self-serving reasons to Zeitgeist levels -- day in and day out for the past twelve months. How can I properly categorize the various virulent strains of blatant ridiculousness we've been throttled by as a culture? What makes Sarah Palin more balls-out fucking stupid than Glenn Beck, or either of them more shamefully, cartoonishly insane than Michele Bachmann or the Teabagging Army? How can I hammer Joe Lieberman, Kanye West and Lou Dobbs when just a year ago I ventured that they had each reached a personal best in his own narcissistic loathsomeness (an assertion that turned out to be wrong on all counts)? What do you do when you'd like to see both Perez Hilton and Carrie Prejean -- the two sides of a public feud that occupied far too much airtime and copy space in 2009 -- get hit by a bus? When you sometimes feel like there was nobody to root for?

Millions were unemployed, yet Lloyd Blankfein still got rich doing "God's work." Detroit all but collapsed. Michael Jackson's monstrous father used his son's death as an excuse to plug a record label. A bunch of European intellectuals dared to make arrogant excuses for a child rapist because he happened to have directed The Pianist. Tiger Woods fucked everything in sight -- including himself. Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett and John Hughes died and Orly Taitz, Dick Cheney and that idiot who wrote those Twilight books didn't. Lies were presented as fact and debated endlessly on cable news while naked hypocrisy went unchallenged. The American dream, more than ever, felt like just that: a dream and nothing more. People actually gave a crap about Jon and Kate and the Octomom and, as such, reality TV finally fulfilled its cultural destiny of metastasizing into a purely toxic substance that had the power to put the safety of the President of the United States at risk and make reputable news organizations look like fools for chasing after an empty silver balloon flying over Colorado. Lady GaGa was right: Fame became a monster.

And yeah, almost none of it was funny -- and as much as I wish I could, I'm not sure I can make it funny. Taken as a whole, it was too dispiriting, infuriating and flat-out exhausting to be funny.

So, maybe the only way to go -- the best parting shot to take -- is to simply say a hearty "fuck you, 2009" and look only forward.

I'll begin doing that in a couple of days. For now, though, I'm crawling back under my desk and hiding. I just don't trust this year; it's still got some fight left in it and, like I said, 48 hours is a long time.

Talk to me on Friday morning.

Bring on 2010 -- it can't come soon enough.


lrxst said...

I once had a conversation with my mother about how she could have brought four lives into the world during what was (at that point) the most dangerous and belligerent American administration the world had ever seen. Her answer was that having children was an act of faith that tomorrow was going to be a bit better than today. I nodded like a good son, filed it away, and decided that I liked Nicolas Cage in 'The Rock', strumming away on his guitar and ruminating on what a humanitarian he was for remaining childless. Hormonal self-justification, call it.

Now that I'm the father of a six-month old, I find myself thinking about that conversation on an almost daily basis with a kind of my-god-what-have-I-just-landed-my-dad's-car-in? introspection. Growing up in the nineties, I'd always figured that while life was going to be good, it certainly was never going to be as bad as those awful 60s that the Boomer family that surrounded me was always banging on about. We were all supposed to get fat off the peace dividend, not fret and sweat and sacrifice in the vain hope that maybe life would be so shit-awful for our kid's grandchildren. You post is an absolute heartbreaker because it's the gnawing dread in the pit of my stomach for the better part of the decade writ, well, large.

So, I don't know what else to say besides fuck the naughties-aughties-shaties-whatever and try and keep the faith, people. By the time this is all over maybe some of us will be able to look the face in the mirror without cringing.

Heather said...

Keep hiding, sir. The Reaper just took another one.

Tim said...

I agree, though I admit I was looking forward to your always amusing take on the year it has been a little too shitty to label any one part more shitty than the rest. Have you thought about doing one for the decade or is there just too much risk of most of it being 2009? I was going to say "well at least the earlier years had george bush and co" but even he paled by comparison to palin and beck.

Looking forward to the new year that's for sure.

Greeney said...

French intellectuals! French intellectuals! And I'm using the word "intellectuals" very lightly here... Goddamn French ruining it again for the rest of us Europeans. We do judge child rapists, promise!

Ref said...

Would you like to make it worse? This decade doesn't actually end until NEXT December 31st!

To top it all off, as present company may testify, anyone in the media who tries to point out any of this absurdity gets smeared and fired.

(word code definition) TRIALAM: advice given by a lonely shepherd

Jason said...

Great post Chez..This decade was a ball buster up and down. Its still noisy as hell out there but I got to be believe we're about to start the decade of recovery and restoration and there will be a true hope now from a rising young "hero" generation that some good can be made in this world. We also have to look forward to the decade of 2020 when the world will be sorted out and value what really matters. We just lived the most Bubbles of any generation since the Civil War era...For that I believe that this ship can correct its course pretty quickly and our kids and grandkids just might have an Earth and America that they can be proud of. Keep the faith brother and keep up the great writing.

Alanna said...

"48 hours is plenty of time for 2009 to kill everyone it hasn't gotten to yet" - priceless.

I'm with you. Bring on 2010 - it cannot come soon enough.

Dianne said...

Nothin' much to say but AMEN and good fucking riddance 2009.

Le Penseur said...

This year has been a real wake-up call for me. You could almost say I've been 'radicalized'. America, nay, the world, is in serious trouble. No one can afford to sit on the sidelines anymore; it's all hands on deck if we are going to pull the human race back from the brink of destruction. I, for one, will not go gently into that good night.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, grim as this decade has been, I still laughed.

Bittersweet I suppose.

Yeah, fuck this decade.

MadJuana said...

I'm disappointed, because I've enjoyed your past year end observatons so much, but I totally get the problem this year. This year has been relentlessly awful.

Just breathe, Chez. Hiding out for a couple of days is a good idea.

Here's hoping for a better New Year.

Hugs and kisses to you and Inara.

Thomas said...

Damn, Chez - the Grim Reaper is not finished yet. RIP Rowland S. Howard:

Will the madness ever end? I can guarantee you though that there will be Mutiny in Heaven!

Matt Osborne said...

Wow, my word verification is "psyching"...

I can't agree more. It was a crap year -- in fact, it was diarrhea sploshed on an already abysmal decade.

For me, the lowest moment was the high-tech lynching of ACORN by two kids with a microcamera, minimal acting skills, and an extremely selective "Temptation Island" style of editing. It was propelled by Faux Noise and Glenn Beck, slathered in misinformation and outright falsehood. Worst of all, the media picked up their frame and related their narrative without ANY fact-checking -- in fact, I haven't seen an MSM source that actually seems to have WATCHED the videos.

And it worked. A majority of Republicans now think ACORN runs the White House and put Obama in office with fake ballots. They have managed to undermine the legitimacy of the presidency.

em said...

"48 hours is plenty of time for 2009 to kill everyone it hasn't gotten to yet"

It got my dog yesterday. Fuck you, 2009. I'm with you on 2010 not getting here soon enough.

Lily said...

2009 has been a hurricane shit storm of stupidity. The only sensible thing to do is hunker down and ride it out. Wearing rain gear.

2010 has to be better. Right? Pleaseohpleaseohplease, be better!

SallyB said...

First time I've come here and read your blog. sure hit the nail on the head. What a year to forget. From the absurdity of Octomom to Balloon Boy to the White House party crashers and more, it's been a year of absolute ridiculousness as people showed they would do just about anything for their precious 15 minutes of fame. Blame it on the upswing of reality TV and the idea that this is one way to get rich quick in a decade where we saw record financial surpluses morph into record financial deficits. Party's over, kids! The delusional 90's became the cynical 00's and it seems we just continue that rapid downhill slide to the bottom. I suspect that what we are witnessing is nothing short of the slow collapse of empire if history teaches us anything. Good blog, sir. Thank you for your keen and sharp insights, and keep up the good work.

Guenveur in Kent said...

Time for you to boycott pop culture, buddy.

LizA. said...

I agree, it was a pretty grim year, but you can't deny that it was a history making one too. Put aside all the other crap and remember the highlight of the year -- January 20th!