I purposely avoided doing much end-of-year stuff last month let alone any end-of-decade stuff. This is mostly because I have nothing good to say about the aughts. There is a reason the Washington Post called it "a lost decade." Economically, politically, and culturally it was nearly an unmitigated disaster. What sucked? Take your pick. Zero net job creation. 9/11. A Vietnam War redux, only with the public swallowing the transparently idiotic case for war without hesitation and asking for seconds. Eight years of a White House that made Reagan look like a libertine Marxist. A previously unthinkable degree of decline in the tenor of public discourse in a single decade.
People started paying for mp3s. Reality programming took over television. The Black-Eyed Peas existed and people seemed to approve. Twitter and texting did immeasurable damage to our already feeble writing skills while iPhones and Blackberii eliminated whatever reasons remained for people to converse with one another in public places. Independent music became Indie Rocktm, an insufferably twee, ball-less amalgam of fake "retro" and fake Americana. Glenn Beck became the most trusted name in news. The internet became ubiquitous and made traditional media irrelevant, thus allowing each American to find and consume his or her own version of reality. The American auto industry finally committed suicide. Mind of Mencia existed – for three fucking seasons. Pluto lost planet status. AutoTune.
I can wring out a few positives, too. Record companies became essentially irrelevant from the perspective of working bands. Non-traditional media ensured that someone hit the important stories, even if no one was listening. This nation of morons was actually smart enough to avoid putting Sarah Palin one 71 year-old man's heartbeat away from the presidency. Barack Obama managed to not get assassinated by some psychotic teabagger asshole, which is a pleasant surprise. The American auto industry finally committed suicide. NASA laid out an ambitious human spaceflight agenda, even though we probably can't afford it. The mean survival time for people infected with HIV (and with access to multidrug therapy) doubled and is now over 20 years. Pinochet died. Michael Jackson followed. Some sort of health care reform passed Congress, albeit a toothless and questionably useful one.
The decade was a mixed bag personally. I quit a job I hated, entered a profession I thought would allow me to make a living, and now, after six years of training and a Ph.D., I make almost three-quarters of what I made in 2000 (actually it's barely half if I take inflation into account) in a field that suddenly offers almost no hope of anything better than temp work. I'm happier despite all that. I became an uncle three times over. I got engaged, de-engaged, and re-engaged. I lost touch with some people and met others. This site went from five unique visitors per month to fifteen or twenty thousand. I got something published in an academic journal, and thus some evidence that I existed could be located if I died tomorrow. My friends and family all did well for themselves personally, professionally, or both. No one, including me, died. I was introduced to rats.
Let's open up the floor – not to our personal ups and downs, but for nominations for the Bests and Worsts of the 00s. I know I missed a lot; the list of Bests feels particularly skimpy (which says a good deal about my personality). Let's do our best to remember a few things about the decade we can't wait to forget.