It's the Little Things
Here's a list of some of the things that made me happy, cranky and/or thankful in 2008:
Kyle Smith: Film critic for the New York Post and king of the hatchet job movie review. Smith's reviews are often more enjoyable than the films he skewers, and he always has at least one great one-liner (i.e. from his review of Punisher: War Zone: "Castle, a k a the Punisher, has no superpowers - unless you count an ability to be dull."). When Smith reviews a bad movie, he himself is sublime.
The New York Giants: No matter how many games they win, no matter how easily they steamrolled the NFC East, they keep you on your toes by seemingly being able to put up a stinker on any given Sunday.
Theresa Schwegel: With her flat-out brilliant trio of novels OFFICER DOWN, PROBABLE CAUSE and PERSON OF INTEREST, Schwegel is on my short list of authors whose books I'll buy the day they hit stores. A lot of people can write authentic police novels, but not with the authenticity of character she does. There is more heart in her novels that any dozen you can pick off the shelf at random.
Michael Wolff: For being a smarmy and smug hanger on--cough--journalist who does the unthinkable by being more repulsive than frequest target Judith Regan. Just look at his author photo. Is he trying to look like Howie Mandel? Wolff is the kind of guy who, at a party, will spend the entire time regailing you with stories of all the famous people he's met, criticize your fashion sense, steal your silverware, then write an article about how no famous people were at your party. He's basically paparazzi with a better wardrobe, itching to catch rich people with their pants down. I mean, he apparently said this to Regan. Doesn't that sound a lot like a TMZ cameraman saying, "Hey, I'm going to zoom in on your crotch when you get out of the car anyway, so you might as well talk to me to try and get something positive out of it."
Beyonce: Nothing says "I am Sasha Fierce" like hawking DirectTV products and wearing bling that reminds you to upgrade your cable service.
The Dark Knight and Wall-E: My two favorite movies of the year (which I reviewed here and here), and in my opinion two of the best films of the last decade. If these films are not serious Oscar contenders (especially over underwhelming entries like Frost/Nixon) then the whole process is rigged. And if Ron Howard gets an Oscar nomination over Christopher Nolan, I might have to officially renounce "Arrested Development." (ok, maybe not, but I'll be pissed)
Beer commercials: Because apparently you can't enjoy a beer unless you a) have an IQ under 40, b) would gladly trade your loving wife or girlfriend for a single can, c) are incredibly annoying/unctuous, d) use nonsense words like "drinkability" in normal conversation, or e) pretty much hate women and think of them as nothing more than unnecessary harpies who should cook you dinner and bear your children and then never be seen or heard from again.
The Shield: Along with "The Wire," one of the best crime dramas ever came to an end this year. Though the shows couldn't have been more different in approach, they both delivered emotional punches to the gut with regularity. Vic Mackey took his place as one of the most iconic characters in television history, and gave us an ending that was both devastating and anti-climactic at the same time. Because it had to be.
Bill Simmons: ESPN's The Sports Guy, one of the first sports columnists who had the knowledge of an insider but wrote with the detached amusement (and enjoyment) of a hardcore fan. For too long I've felt book publishing needed someone like that, a critic who could be smart and funny but didn't owe anybody anything, didn't care about celebrity or lack thereof, didn't give a rats ass about publishing parties and what books were "hip," took pre-pub hype with a massive grain of salt, didn't try too hard and didn't care about "sounding" smart, and, most importantly, wrote for the average guy/girl reading in their armchair.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores: Yes, online stores might have better selection. Yes, the Kindle might get the book to you faster. But there's nothing that replicates the pure joy of walking around a bookstore without time being an object (or the awkward stares from employees whose eyes seem to say, "That guy is still here?").
Online retailers: Because sometimes you just need a copy of an out-of-print book on colonial child-rearing, a DVD of "Shark Attack 3" and a case of kettle cooked popcorn to arrive in one shipment.
NFL pregame shows: There is no greater form of unintentional comedy than watching five overweight middle-aged men--most of whom have never played competitive sports--going through slow motion plays on a tiny putting surface of a football field while wearing two thousand dollar suits and enough makeup to tide the cast of "Desperate Houswives" over until 2013.
Publishers Marketplace: Though I haven't worked in editorial in over a year, I still check it on an almost daily basis, still love seeing when an author I love or know gets a new deal or an editor buys something that I can't wait to have on my shelf.
Publishers Lunch: Reading Pub Lunch the last few weeks has been like reading a weekly analysis of the Detroit Lions season. Just depressing in so many ways.
The New York Times/New York Observer: Two newspapers whose book coverage seems to exist in some sort of vacuum where there's no such thing as genre fiction and merely uttering the words Roberto Bolano cause their staff an Andy Samberg-esque spurt of, um, ecstasy.
Sean Avery/The Dallas Stars/The NHL: I don't care one bit about hockey, but I'm thrilled that the NHL suspended Avery and his team cut him loose after his staged press conference where he crudely dissed his ex-girlfriends. About time somebody gets the clue that acting like an ass isn't cool.
Kristen Wiig: The best SNL performer since Will Ferrell.
Rick Riordan's THE LIGHTNING THIEF: Reminded me of why I loved fantasy novels when I was a kid, and how the best YA can be enjoyed by all ages.