Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Favorite Things '08 (What I'm Thankful For This Year)...

Last year I posted an article about my favorite things of 2007 ala Oprah Winfrey (though I didn't admit it then, nor do I want to now, considering how little I like her), but I did enjoy the period of reflection on the year that writing said article brought me, so I have decided to continue and make it an annual thing. Without further ado, I present to you, my favorite pop culture things/happenings of-- you know, the ones that kept me sane and entertained for hours on end-- in 2008.

VH1. This year alone it has brought me the joys of Rock of Love: Charm School with Sharon Osbourne, I Love Money, and a second season of Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab. Those shows have gotten me through some severely boring mornings at work. Oh yeah, and then there was EgoTrip's Miss Rap Supreme, which made as great a mockery of hip-hop as 50 Cent just made on the last episode of The Money and the Power when he announced a challenge was all about "speaking the truth" but then rewarded the sell-out team who wanted to market a rapper sponsored by a cell phone company, but also introduced me to the musical stylings of Byata whose songs "Hush Little Lady" and "Look Into My Eyes" were my anthems-- at least for a little while.

Along similar lines, HGTV. When I first started looking at condos to potentially purchase, I quickly learned I wasn't going to find something in my price range that needed absolutely no improvements. I began watching shows like Property Virgins and House Hunters simply to feel a comraderie with some others (albeit strangers) who were in a similar boat to me, but I continued with Design on a Dime and Rate My Space to see the kinds of things that could be done, cheaply or not, and what kind of a return they would yield. I needed tips on how to put in wood flooring myself and on a budget and how to use splashes of color and simple moldings to make a room look bigger and brighter. Then as I began to realize that even though foreclosures were rising, I still wasn't finding anything in my price range that felt like a good fit, I began watching the shows for tips on other neighborhoods, in other cities and states, that could offer me more for my money. It has had me considering parts of the country I've never even seen in person.

Comebacks. This year Q-Tip released a new album ("The Renaissance"), NKOTB went back on tour, childhood favorites like Mark-Paul Gosselaar returned to television, and even Britney Spears made headlines for something other than a drunken (or stoned) escapade with the paparazzi. Though none of them have been perfect (Gosselaar desperately needs a haircut!), it bodes well for the future of their careers rather than having to endure yet some more teeny bopper up-and-comers. It's always nice when the ones that have since faded away quite a bit end up pulling through and proving their talent and hard work will again lead to success.

Express Editor pants. Spending the past eleven months in a cubicle farm at which the dress code is "business casual" even though no one ever sees us has meant I have had to retire my Junk Food and SuperExcellent Tees and Blochs. I love the way these pants come pre-creased and pre-cuffed, and miraculously I have never had to alter them.

Stephen King. With his two new releases for the year ("Duma Key" and "Just After Sunset") he has managed to bring thinking back to reading. In the last few years, at least for me, reading has become as mindless an activity as watching television. I would pick up a novel, and whether it was a series of personal short stories (Chelsea Handler, for example) or suspenseful fiction (like Jodi Picoult) I could always figure out the formula from the early chapters and then know exactly where it was going. And sure, while the journey of how the story got there might still be interesting, some of the fun was taken out of the fact that nothing was so unique it was a surprise. Years after his "retirement," King still manages to catch the reader off-guard, even though at the core of his new work still lies the same issues of his old, with new and rich characters and settings, from an artist who paints another reality and finds himself spiraling into it to a survivor of 9/11 who finds objects of his co-workers who weren't so lucky magically turning up in his apartment. Master of Horror, sure, but also Master of my Heart!

Sugar Free Popsicles. At only fifteen calories each, I can eat three of these and not feel badly about myself. Usually, I stop at two, though-- one orange and one cherry and chuck the grape down the garbage disposal. It's a refreshing treat after I've been exercising and my mouth is dry because all of my fluids are sweating out the top of my head and the bottoms of my feet, but it's also just nice on a hot summer night in the valley when I don't feel like turning on my air conditioner.

Neil Patrick Harris. It really was his year, from his larger role in the sequel to Harold & Kumar due to the wild popularity of his original cameo to the online sensation (that let's face it, was only as big as it was because of who it had in it) Dr. Horrible's Sing A Long Blog. This was also the year I revisited Doogie Howser thanks to the wonders of the DVD box set; his Barney Stinson finally grappled with real emotions after sleeping with and then falling for his good friend Robin (fueling my whole "Aunt Robin and Uncle Barney" said-in-one-breath in-season-one-which-led-me-to-believe-they-end-up-together argument); and let's not forget his one line quip at the Emmy's that summed up what everybody was feeling. He’s the kind of inspirational talent I try to find more of every year.

Tina Fey. So Baby Mama left something to be desired, but the DVD release of 30 Rock's season two more than made up for Fey's sophomore film misstep. It is remarkable what such a talented, smart lady could do with a shortened season. Then there's her double duty as Liz Lemon on the current episodes while moonlighting as Sarah Palin on SNL. She single-handedly saved that sketch comedy and brought back Monday morning water cooler moments in the office with her dead-on impression. She has tact, but she is best when she doesn't use it, like with her "Bitch is the new black" declaration and her winking and "ya know"-ing through a skit right in front of the person it's about. And did I mention she makes me feel better about my glasses?

Democrats. A few years ago a friend emailed me the line: "We took back the house! Now let's take back the big white one in '08." And we actually did it. Sometimes I'm still surprised by that.

And of course, once again, there's Madison. Above everything, I am always most thankful for Madison!

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