Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Obligatory 2010 in Review Post

Yeah, yeah, yeah- we've seen it all before...

Well, my 2010 kind of sucked. How about yours? It's safe to say 2010 kind of sucked all across the world unless you spent it on Wall Street or the City of London or any of the other bankster havens. I'd rehash some of the stories that we saw this year but it's all too depressing, plus there are a million other sites for that. Year in Review's don't have quite the resonance they once did in the pre-Internet Age, since the ubiquity of the media ensures that we all get sick of whatever the big issue of the day is well before the news cycle is over.

2010 was a weird year for me pop culture-wise, since I spent a lot of time watching old shows on Hulu that I missed the first time around. Thanks to multitasking- both my computer's and my own- I could do so while working. As regular readers know I spent a lot of time digging into The New Outer Limits (as well as doing some indepth rewatching on the originals). Granted, the show is not consistently great- there are a fairly substantial number of filler eps- but when it works it can blow your head off. There's also the added benefit of having been produced in the Holy City (aka Vancouver, BC) and also having used a host of Ten Thirteen company players.

As with the original series, several episodes of TNOL deal with contact as an intimate event, one that more often than not comes as as result of a radical change in perception. In other words, TNOL presents a world in which are surrounded by strange entities who hide just outside the astonishingly limited sphere of normal human perception. The message being that if you truly want to make contact, you need to escape the straitjacket of the reptilian conscious mind. But beware- that straitjacket also protects you. We're not necessarily well-equipped to deal with this deeper states of knowing. In fact most of us aren't at all.

I was on the scent of a certain revelation this past year, which all of this ties into. At the same time we saw eyes being trained on the skies like no other time in history. Make no mistake, all of the time and money we're seeing being spent isn't because they're fascinated by distant nebulae or space dust...

They're looking for aliens and they're lying if they say any different. At the same time, money and power is being shifted away from North America and Europe to all of these same places where the ancient texts tell us that men met the sky gods and astounding cities are popping up there overnight at the same time billions are being spent of private space travel.

Someone is expecting something and it's a secret we're not being let in on. And if anyone says different they're either lying or uninformed.

The big story in the pop culture media this year was the "Death of Geek." A whole host of movies that got everyone hepped up at Comicon (like Kick Ass here, which I loved) died or underperformed at the box office. Sci-fi TV shows are dropping like flies, even on the SyFy channel. Comic book sales are bottoming out, which might accelerate with the trouble the major booksellers are in. I'm not really buying into this because it all revolves around economics and not culture. The Top 20 movies of 2010 are all geek-friendly at the very least, and everything is hurting on television and in publishing.

What the real story is is that Geek Culture is no longer pulling the entertainment industry out of its decline. Sci-fi shows are getting cancelled because they're expensive to produce and their fans aren't the types who watch anything in its first run (which is the audience advertisers are most concerned with). Graphic novels are still holding their own compared to prose novels.

The real problem from where I sit is A., a lack of vision, and B., an overabundance of expectation. The suits have overheated the entire game in a pressure cooker- the culture can't breath anymore because someone is constantly taking its pulse. People now decide whether to see a movie based on its opening weekend grosses, which is pure insanity. And although downloaders see themselves as heroic cultural anarchists, they are ensuring that the dumbest junk will triumph since its audience can't figure out how to pilfer their entertainment fix yet. These days what sells is what gets pushed, never forget that.

OK, since I myself am a kind of rebel I'm going to name The Box as my favorite movie of 2010, even though it was actually released in late 2009. But I think I blinked at the time and it vanished from the theaters. You can read my rave review for it here. I do find it fascinating that it takes place in Virginia but was shot in my old stomping grounds, aka Fringe Country. This is one of the few decent movies I could find at the local Redbox, which is filled with movies I wouldn't waste a dollar on. Definitely one I want for my shelves as well.

Runner-Up: Toy Story 3, an elegaic farewell that was particularly poignant for those of us who raised kids in the 90s. My second son graduated this year and said it really struck a nerve with him.

My favorite TV show will surprise absolutely no one. As nervous as I am about its move to Friday nights, it also will tickle my old X-Files nostalgia jones. I can never say enough how much I wish TXF never left Vancouver but I also often wish it stayed on Friday nights. Chemistry is a funny thing. Time and setting can be just as important as the writers and actors.

Runner-up is the new Doctor Who series. I never cottoned to the Ninth and Tenth Doctors- too Britpop for my tastes- but I'm totally onboard for Eleven. A lot of it might have something to do with the adorable Scottish ginger he has in tow, but I also buy Matt Smith as a brilliant eccentric, even if he seemed a bit too young for the part. But I also like the writing- just the right mix of drama, humor and imagination. Who fans thought they could never replace Tennant but now most seem to have forgotten him already.

An honorable mention goes to Ancient Aliens; sure, I'd do it differently and it tends to be a bit puppy-dog overeager at times, but it's pissing all of the right people off by asking impertinent questions about history and human origins. The original two-hour special from 2009 is still the best of the lot, but it's destination TV for me and the missus, and a lot of people who I wouldn't expect have been tuning in as well.

I didn't hear much new music this year that got me excited. The local FM station is increasingly playing more and more classic rock and less and less new music. I'll check out 3WK from time to time and enjoy it, but more and more I listen to electronic stuff- mainly dub, ambient and trance stuff on SomaFM. It's good to think to, something that peppy rock doesn't always lend itself to.

Since I'm stuck in the 90s in so many ways the new Stone Temple Pilots gets my nod for album of the year. OK, maybe it would have regardless on its quality but happily its quality was surprisingly high. It's very much in the Purple vein, hitting on that Houses of the Holy/Toys in the Attic vibe that can't miss with me either. As with most STP albums some of the tracks take a few spins to sink in, but for my money there's no shortage of A material, including "Dare if You Dare" and "Maver" which I'd put on a STP best of mix in a heartbeat.

The original Killing Joke put out their new album Absolute Dissent in 2010, the first with the original lineup since 1982's Revelations. It's the usual mix of occultic hammering and political extremities, and would probably rate higher for me if it weren't subject to comparison with Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, an album that I played so much I tattooed it onto the depths of my consciousness. I know that's a controversial stance in Joker circles, but Hosannas opened a doorway into several dimensions with its force-of-nature power and this one is simply just another fantastic KJ record.

I would much prefer to have some music by some newer artists to cite this year, but I just didn't hear any. Which makes sense, given the suckitude of 2010. Just in case you were wondering I have seen the "Monster" video, thought it was a repugnant piece of trash and that's all I have to say about it. I hope one day people will want to listen to music again, not this paint-by-numbers garbage that MTV conditioned them to respond to back when they played music videos. It kills me that real musicians are starving while people who are essentially nothing more than brand names thrive.

As to comics, the same pattern as with everything else applies- I was reading a lot of comics but mostly older material. Art is a timeless thing- that's the whole point of it- so I don't feel honor-bound to read only contemporary material at any given point in time. My favorite offering of 2010 was this gem by Swedish cartoonist Jason, The Werewolves of Montpellier. I think he's a master of deadpan humor, but he can also weave in some very astute observations of human nature and some unexpected drama as well.

I also really enjoyed the new Charles Burns volume, X'ed Out, a harrowing descent into nightmare reality that any novelist would be proud to call his own.
But the real treasure of 2010 was the gorgeous new volume of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's classic Tales of Asgard. The color work is all new and makes the entire work seem all new along with it. The rendering brings out the power and dimension of Kirby's pencils in a way that feels brand new to me. It's very much like seeing this stuff for the first time.
You don't need to be a comics fan to appreciate this book- the story is completely self-contained and hews much closer to the old myths than the Thor comic proper did. If I could only have one comics volume, this would be it. I loved this stuff when I was a kid and I love it even more now.

Well, here's hoping 2011 is better than the past two years, culturally and otherwise. It's been a pretty rough ride around these parts and I could use a change of pace. I hope 2011 is better for all of you out there as well.


  1. I think the movies became more artistic in 2010. I think overall they were of a higher quality than the previous years. I think 2011 will se a rebirth in respected, Hiquality art. Maybe it is thriough art that people will begin to wake up. The balance will return through art.

  2. When it comes to culture, I see little reason to spend money on it given the vast amount that is now available for free at libraries, in the form of torrents, etc. There are already far more good books, comics, movies, etc. in existence than I can absorb in my lifetime, and the ones I like tend to have eternal themes, so as you say there isn't much reason to consume new stuff. This probably doesn't bode well for our long-term cultural health, but perhaps some kind of collapse of the current paradigm is what is needed to shake us out of our current cultural malaise.

  3. "They're looking for aliens and they're lying if they say any different.... Someone is expecting something and it's a secret we're not being let in on. And if anyone says different they're either lying or uninformed."

    That's a pretty big claim-- can you share with the rest of us what it's based on? Seriously-- I'm not being snotty, I'd really like to hear your theory.

    I'm definitely open to the idea, but I rarely see any kind of fact based evidence displayed in the blogosphere when this topic comes up. It's normally just wildly speculative. I'd like to see a little meat between the Wonder bread for once.

  4. Gee my 2010 was kinda awesome. These are exciting times.

  5. RE:
    "I also really enjoyed the new Charles Burns volume, X'ed Out, a harrowing descent into nightmare reality that any novelist would be proud to call his own."

    It's a bit of a sync
    (...or maybe you knew) that you put the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the "official" "X marks the spot" theme for 2011,as the top picture on this post.
    I was reading,just last night in fact,your review of "The 40-year-old Virgin" with it's Mithra's Cross,and especially the pic of the red taped cross on the back of his helmet,and then it clicked that the cross was the same one they had used on the bridge the night before,with the official theme of
    "X marks the Spot".

    Another interesting note is the name of the fireworks company which has been doing the New Years Eve fireworks for ages;
    "International Fireworks"!??

    Also taking 2010 music,
    I wondered if you had heard "The Klaxons" 2010 album "Surfing The Void".Reportedly written after an Iowaska trip?

  6. Also,I forgot to mention that I was drinking this champagne at midnight Dec 31st,

    which brought my attention to the red X on the bridge being telecast all over Australia (and the world) that night.
    I had never heard of it before.I usually only by champagne on New Years,as I'm more of a beer person.And I usually buy just the small 375 ml bottle of Moet,or one of the other French drinks,since my wife doesn't drink.
    But,this year I saw this Lanson Champagne,noticed it was French and $7 cheaper,and thought,what the hell.
    What a coincidence?
    X marks the spot...indeed!

  7. Maybe this is the way to go in order to get movie projects off the ground.-)

    "Iron Sky" is a independent sci-fi movie about Nazis from the Dark Side of the Moon. This is a film from sci-fi fans to sci-fi fans, and you can help make the movie!

    I think I might even throw a couple of bucks their way.

  8. finished the secret history of rock n roll right before the new year. Much appreciation. Juss enough of the mysteries and rock to keep me reading. I got it on Xmas eve so finishin in a week is awesome for me. Ima get the gods wear spandex now!

  9. Hey Chris,

    2010 has been a rough year for me, but it also had some good points. I agree that the Powers That Be are expecting something, but there are so many factions and cliques running around that there's probably not a consensus on it. But then, who knows?

    I'm constantly commenting on this blog about the subtlties of perception and the importance of self-governance and yet I've still got a lot of work to do on myself. Still trying to fully practice what I preach, as it were. It's an open process with no end in sight, really. I think that terrifies most people.

    I really want to continue trying to gather the fortitude to comprehend more of this world we're living in, and make my contribution towards making it a nicer place to live. The Secret Sun is an important touchstone for me in that regard. It helps keep me awake, for one thing, and that's always kinda sobering.


  10. ...we're not necessarily well-equipped to deal with this deeper states of knowing. in fact most of us aren't at all...this is absolutely true. i think the majority of people calling for contact would go ape shit (and not necessarily in the right way) if it was disclosed that we are indeed not alone. you're talking about deconstructing belief structures etc. and it would be a worldwide event obviously. unfortunately the only way joe public are going to get it is if something cataclysmic happens and our illustrious leaders pull the rabbit out of the hat. even then i can guarantee it probably won't be what many are looking for.