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.