Pop and Circumstance

Right. So it’s almost the end of the year, which means that instead of actually writing an article and stuff, I can pump out some stupid “Best of 2001 list” and get away with it. Which is really quite good, because it’s easier for me to write, and easier for you to read. In the pre-popular culture era, no respectable publication would allow a writer to submit a list in place of an article. But nowadays, music, movies and television are so completely meaningless that the human mind has to organize them in list form to give the illusion that they have significance, e.g. “Hot dog! Entertainment Weekly says ?Pearl Harbor’ is the 23rd best World War II movie of all time!”

Ever watch VH1? An entire cable network that operates via the list: “Top 100 Songs of All Time,” “Top 100 Rock Star Weddings,” “Top 40 Substances Found in Keith Richards’s Puke.” I love VH1, but I think I’ve watched so much of that godforsaken channel that I’m beginning to think in lists. Which is OK if you want to rate the 43 best Black Sabbath songs, but not so OK when you’re, say, studying American Lit (“Top 10 Themes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”). Which doesn’t change the fact that there’s no way in hell I’m going to write an actual article.

So here we go, the Best of 2001?it was a pretty strange year. I don’t think the world is getting better or worse, but I’m pretty sure it is getting weirder.

10 Best of 2001:

10. Outkast

This year Outkast toured the world in support of the brilliant album they released last year, “Stankonia.” Hip-Hop is the most vital cultural movement right now, and Big Boi and Andre are simply the best MCs out there.

Not content with P. Diddy-style self-aggrandizement on top of dull rhythm tracks, Outkast continue to push the envelope of rap. You won’t hear them brag about their money or their rides, but their music is about a million times more interesting than your standard MTV rap fodder. Outkast just keeps getting better, and we should see a new album from them sometime in 2002.

9. “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

Seriously. This movie was ridiculously funny. Yes, it was an insult to the intelligence of the audience, and I’m still not quite sure why or how it was made, but it was too damn funny to ignore. You know you loved it. I can’t wait for the DVD.

8. Saturday Night Live

Do you remember a couple years ago when SNL was so viciously unfunny that you couldn’t watch it without grimacing in pain every 40 seconds? I’d completely written the show off, but?it’s really good again. I mean, it’s really funny.

Cast members Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon and Tracy “The Funniest Man Alive” Morgan are immensely talented, and the writing is top-notch. Especially noteworthy is the “Weekend Update” with Tina Fey and Fallon: scathing social satire unlike any SNL has had in years.

7. Bjork, Vespertine

As a male who digs the music of Icelandic pixie Bjork, I have this nagging feeling that I am not worthy of owning testicles and should be beaten senseless. But, gender issues aside, Bjork’s new album Vespertine is just beautiful. Some of the songwriting isn’t quite as strong as we’ve come to expect, but the orchestration is just awesome ? a modern classical album.

6. “The Daily Show”

Easily the best show on television. I don’t know how people watch CNN or MSNBC; “The Daily Show” is the only news program worth watching (at least for people who share my woefully short attention span). Jon Stewart is the best news anchor around, and his speech on Sept. 24 about the Sept. 11 bombing was the most incisive and heartfelt piece I have seen about the tragedy.

5. The Strokes, Is This It?

As the Ramones once intoned, “Do You Remember Rock’ n’ Roll Radio?” Well, the Strokes do, and this year they managed to rise above the hype and release one of the finest debut rock records I’ve heard in a while. A couple of the songs on Is This It? are duds, but this band clearly has immense potential. Keep an eye on The Strokes, they just might blow your ass out of your face.

4. Apocalypse Now Redux

Wow. The best movie all year was a re-release. Critics were divided over whether the new footage added or detracted from the original film, but I loved it. It was just great to see the Apocalypse Now on the big screen. It’s still the coolest Vietnam movie ever. “I’ve seen a snail crawl along the edge of a razor blade?”

3. Britney’s Boobs

Well, c’mon, Ms. Spears’s mammaries were everywhere in 2001. The best was her photo on the latest Rolling Stone cover. Holy God. Her boobs are as perfect as her new album is rotten. Ten years from now, when Britney is homeless and talking to herself a cardboard box behind a convenience store, what will we remember-the god-awful music or the boobs? Methinks the boobs.

2. U2’s Elevation Tour

This one caught me by surprise. I’d seen U2 before ? and they weren’t all that good. It was a couple of years ago during their brief techno period, and the concert was lots of freaky lights, stage props, and assorted filigree. It was confusing, and the show kind of sucked.

But U2 has regrouped, and their current Elevation Tour is just incredible. One of the best shows I have ever seen. They are playing their asses off onstage, and giving it everything they got. Not a lot of props or lasers this time, just good old-fashioned rock ’n roll. And their new stuff doesn’t suck all that much.

1. 2001 World Series

I may be a little biased because I’m from Phoenix, Ariz., but they just don’t make World Series like this one anymore. Maybe not the best Series ever (see 1991), but definitely the most entertaining. It was great entertainment at a time when the nation really needed a diversion. And my boy Randy J was just awesome. We’ll be talking about this Series for a while.

That about does it. I was going to do a Worst Of 2001 list, but I’m way too lazy. Whatever. Here’s to a brighter/weirder 2002. And let’s hope that Creed never sells another album ever again.

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