Herewith, Dave Barry’s year in review:

Shortly thereafter McCain stuns the world, and possibly himself, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a no-nonsense hockey mom with roughly 114 children named after random nouns such as “Hamper.””

“On the Republican side, John McCain emerges as the front-runner when Mitt Romney drops out of the race, citing “motherboard issues.”

In the presidential debates, John McCain, looking and sounding increasingly like the late Walter Brennan, cites Joe the Plumber a record 847 times while charging that Obama’s tax policies amount to socialism. Obama, ahead of McCain by double digits in the polls and several hundred million dollars in money, skips the debates so he can work on his inaugural address. The New York Times declares his performance “masterful.”

“Barack Obama, in a historic triumph, becomes the nation’s first black president since the second season of 24, setting off an ecstatically joyful and boisterous all-night celebration that at times threatens to spill out of The New York Times newsroom.”

The economic news is also gloomy for the U.S. automotive industry, where General Motors, in a legally questionable move aimed at boosting its sagging car sales, comes out with a new model called “The Chevrolet Toyota.”

Pacific Ocean Poo

Thank you, Matos, for expressing what I thought in July when I heard Dennis Wilson’s rightfully withheld masterpiece. I’ll only add that: (a) nobody in the late seventies sounded this addled and lachrymose unless you were Leif Garrett, and, on certain cuts, that’s the kind of standard Wilson achieves; (b) if you’re going to essay studio-rock, please be sure your singing and arranging are up to the standards of the genre and the players you hire.

When I saw the trailer for Doubt, I smacked my lips: it looked like an (un)holy combination of Agnes of God meets Notes From a Scandal, a mix of religio-mystic hokum and melodrama. Sad to say, Doubt was a lot worse. This farrago, adapted by and from John Patrick Shanley’s play, lacks the basic mechanics of filmmaking to bring off Shanley’s wisps of ideas. His idea of “opening up” his play is to visually dramatize a parable that Philip Seymour Hoffman tells (it involves the feathers from an opened pillowcase flying in the wind, of course). Ambiguities that might have teased onstage look like cop-outs on screen: is Hoffman a pedophile? Is the student gay? What are Amy Adams’ motivations? Shanley’s inspiration for this turgidly paced nonsense seems anachronistic: the manner in which he develops his ideas could have come from some 1950’s conception of “provocative” subject matter (think Picnic, with William Holden in a wimple). Only Viola Davis comes closest to presenting something human and terrible onscreen, but if Shanley wanted real fireworks – real tragedy – why did he bury Davis’ revelations in the middle of the movie instead of moving it to the beginning, where they would have forced the audience to reckon with them over the next ninety minutes? A similar eye-opener of a fact about Streep’s personal life is mentioned once, an aside almost, and it changes not a bit of our understanding of her. Stephanie Zacharek: “Have no earthly idea what point Shanley is trying to make? It’s all good — you’re just having Doubt.”


1. Erykah Badu – New America Part One (4th World War)
2. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
3. Robert Forster – The Evangelist
4. Ne-Yo – Year of the Gentleman
5. Bob Dylan – Tell-Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8
6. Portishead – Third
7. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
8. The-Dream – Love/Hate
9. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair
10. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
11. T.I. – Paper Trail
12. Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing
13. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
14. Randy Newman – Harps and Angels
15. Lil Wayne – The Carter III
16. The Magnetic Fields – Distortion
17. No Age – Nouns
18. Dolly Parton – Backwoods Barbie
19. Arthur Russell – Love is Overtaking Me
20. Taylor Swift – Fearless

Top Singles of 2008

Likely the ballot I’ll submit to Pazz and Jop (the first ten anyway):

1. Hercules and Love Affair – “Blind” (Frankie Knuckles remix)
2. The-Dream featuring Rihanna – “Livin’ a Lie”
3. Cut Copy – “So Haunted”
4. Q-Tip – “Gettin’ Up”
5. The Juan MacLean – “Happy House”
6. Raphael Saadiq – “The Big Easy”
7. Big Boi feat. Andre 3000 and Raekwon – “Royal Flush”
8. Taylor Swift – “Hey Stephen”
9. Hot Chip – “Ready For The Floor”
10. Mary J. Blige – “Stay Down”
11. The Killers – “Human”
12. Beyone – “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
13. Erykah Badu – “The Cell”
14. The Drive-By Truckers – “The Righteous Path”
15. Estelle feat. Kanye West – “American Boy”
16. Of Montreal – “Gallery Piece”
17. Kanye West – “Love Lockdown”
18. T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake – “Dead and Gone”
19. Al Green – “Stay With Me (By The Sea)”
20. David Byrne-Brian Eno – “Strange Overtones”

Although I’ve owned it for two years, I don’t use my iPod “properly.” It mostly acts as a musical way station, into which I upload the new albums I’m reviewing or interested in, or older favorites I need to hear at that moment. But I’ve never used all its memory capacity; as of eight-thirty this morning I’ve got a grand total of 57 songs uploaded, and it won’t change soon. I’m still attached to physical copies of CD’s, so the procedure goes: I get sent a digital copy of, say, Dear Science, I listen to it a half dozen times, then go buy a copy. When I want to hear Comes A Time or Please, I do what millions of listeners did before the advent of personal listening devices: I listen to it in my car or wait until I’m home. I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to upload hundreds of albums that I may not want to hear in the next few days. Besides, I’m a natural deleter: wasted space offends me. Ask my students how much I love ripping pages off essays and defacing paragraphs with red sharpies.

Yeah, yeah — I contradicted myself. Buying CD’s when I’ve already got a digital copy takes up space. It’s an odd sort of redundancy. But my habits haven’t adjusted to the paradigm shift of which Joe Levy speaks in his jauntily defiant response to remarks by Robert Christgau on the changing nature of music consumption: from home stereo system to laptop speakers and headphones. Christgau worries that the “privatization of music consumption that the iPod-computer speaker model assumes,” along with diminishing word counts for reviews, has constricted the ability if not the desire of rockcrits to think beyond their prejudices.

Whew. The remarks may deserve their own space. As much as I enjoy drawing correspondences between subtle changes in the thinking patterns of the world at large and the banal/personal, and as much as this midthirtysomething gets off on a certain earned orneriness, I don’t see the atrophy that Bob does — not yet. I do see a lot of good writers struggling to express their thoughts in shrinking space, some of whom adjusting better than others, as usual — nothing new in that. My iPod does have lots to teach me about managing shrinking space, though.

PS: Check out the roundtable at Slate between Jody Rosen, Ann Powers, and Christgau.