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.

37 thoughts on “VH1 PRESENTS "I LOVE THE 00s"”

  • I never appreciated New Years Eve until this most recent one, until those awful oughts were replaced with 2010. And I'm not some kid – I'm over 50 – it took this long. I don't have any bests and worsts of the 00s – to say that the decade sucked is too much of an understatement, and I sure as hell don't want to look back. I'm very optimistic about the next ten years – even though it will be even weirder and probably more painful than the oughts.

    OK, one of the great things about the oughts is the emergence of the blogosphere – instead of experiencing the country being taken over by crazed right wing extremists alone, the blogosphere enabled nominally sane people to connect and say "WTF?". This was the major contribution to my sanity and survival during that terrible decade.

  • The podcast as a medium was introduced. I find this good. An interesting decade for sports. The White Sox won a World Series, which made me happy. I only had to endure two Yankee titles throughout the decade. The Patriots almost went undefeated in 07-08 polarizing the country. The Colts intentionally tanked an opportunity to go undefeated on Dec 29, 2009 in an attempt to anger their fans. Politics sucked something awful, as we had the most reactionary president in history collectively suck the life out of the country for eight years. Reality TV caused us all to lose an average of 7 IQ points throughout the aughts.

  • One more thing: Whenever you see stock footage of the sixties they always hit up the Vietnam footage along with pictures of JFK and MLK. You will also hear a Doors or Jimi Hendrix song. When the news or some documentary does the 2000s, you will see a 9/11 shot first, followed by footage of two wars and a Killers song playing over it. This short segment will end with the economic collapse in 08.

  • "You will also hear a Doors or Jimi Hendrix song. When the news or some documentary does the 2000s, you will see a 9/11 shot first, followed by footage of two wars and a Killers song playing over it."

    If that doesn't illustrate how culturally mundane the aughts were, I don't know what will.

  • Nice summary, Ed. Your career trajectory sounds an awful lot like mine (except that you at least have a cool blog).

    Worst part of the aughts: willful ignorance and misinformation have become cultural virtues.

    Silver lining, but not really good news: the crazy conspiracy promoters on the left (i.e. 'truthers') have finally been replaced by crazy conspiracy promoters on the right (birthers, deathers, climate hoaxers, etc.).

  • Worst: W got re-f***ing-elected. Are you kidding me? Co-Worst: What Keith said: "willful ignorance and misinformation have become cultural virtues."

    Best: America is showing slim signs of shedding its racial fears (half-black president, latina supreme court judge, more women in positions of responsibility, etc.); Co-Best: Independent media + blogosphere at least managed to make some noise in the corporat-o-cracy that is the MSM though I still worry the teabaggers will still win in the medium term.

    PS: Did I just come with the theoretically impossible and worst idea of 2010 thus far by terming items "co-best"?!

  • Best part of the aughts: the death of the Republican Party

    Wortst part of the aughts: the damage they did whilst dying

  • Best: Game 4 Celtics v Lakers 2008 NBA finals.
    Bush's plan to privatize social security did not pan out.

    Worst: Privatization of just about every other govt. function.
    Ayn Rand acolytes. (not phenomenon of the aughts, but more prevalent than ever)
    Thomas Friedman continues to be paid to write.

  • This most recent arbitrarily-delineated time period sucked eggs in a multitude of ways, but according to the unwritten rules that dominate such things I was just a little kid in the 70s, into the wrong things back in the 80s, missed out on just about everything in the 90s, and I almost completely dropped out of pop culture in the 00s. I love the internet, mind Lady Gaga amusing, and find that mp3s are still abundant and free with minimal effort, but I completely refuse to remember George W. Bush except as a lesson in how stupid some people can be when the shit hits the fan.

  • That should be "find Lady Gaga amusing", though it might be fun to mind her for a while. Someday she could put on an outfit where someone should say, "You aren't going out in THAT, are you?"

  • bests: amazon marketplace, at one point a lot of rich people became poor.

    worsts: people getting loans they can't afford, the banks who gave them the loans, and the metal rods they collectively broke off in our asses. Not to mention all the bail outs. Which leads me to: a lot of rich people became richer.

  • Ed, I disagree with you about NASA's human space plans. We are going about it bass-ackward. We need to get launch costs down, which will not happen if you go with a Reaganesque grandiose guaranteed-to-fail-like-the-National-Space-Plane-or-Star-Wars-bullshit type of projects. We need small bold projects that can get the cost down from the current $5000/lb costs. (And consider, at 5 grand a pound, the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise could have been shuttled into orbit fully fueled and crewed once a year for the past eight years on what we spent blowin' up A-rabs and other gov't horseshit. God, please fucking beam me up).

    On the other hand, DARPA managed to kick some ass at U of D and get a solar fuel cell efficiency of 42.8% – which means when oil prices shoot back up, we have a truly viable alternative to fossil fuels ready to go. Plus, this is the golden age of Materials Science, with weird fucking Sci-Fi things that would make you shit your pants being invented daily. Can't say exactly what, but best you find a clean pair to change into when we hit the Teens.

  • best? not much to choose from alright – I'll join jon in toasting America's Sweetheart, Lady Gaga. She joins Bjork (the Swedish Chef's favorite artiste!) and Cyndi Lauper in my list of adorable nutcases who enjoy their youth to the hilt. Other than that, probably the proliferation of weblogs, even though I have to force myself to sample many of them due to their deliberate obtusement (? 'obtusability? obtusification?) in not agreeing with my personal prejudices.
    I'm not going to go into 'worsts – life is too short, and I don't need the aggravation.

  • grumpygradstudent says:

    Bests: I second the invention of podcasts. I've learned just as much for free from public broadcasting over the last decade as I've learned in the 8 years of it I spent in school. Also, I think gay people are somewhat safer today than they were in 2000. There are a couple places where they can get married, and not quite as many people would celebrate if they were killed. Microfinance was a good move. Cell phones are really damn convenient for organizing outings and getting directions, and are nice for people who live in poor countries with no infrastructure. Culturally speaking, television was producing some really great stuff, even while large segments of it were turning into shit. HBO's Deadwood and The Wire are both fantastic. Adult Swim is generally brilliant. The growth of local and organic food movements are good. The Onion.

    Worsts: LOL Cats. George Bush/Dick Cheney. Anti-intellectualism. Darfur (and the fact that Africa is still a disaster in general). McMansions. Soccer-mom Christian fundamentalism. The replacement of cool puppets and models with bad CGI. Hayden Christiansen and Jar Jar Binks. Growing inequality and the continued gutting of the middle class. Hummers. Hipsters.

  • grumpygradstudent says:

    Correction: The Phantom Menance came out in 99. But episode 2 sucked a lot as well. (3 was tolerable, I thought).

  • Best: Arrested Development; The Wire; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; Joe Mauer; The Colbert Report; The Sheppard-Byrd Act

    Worst: Hunter S Thompson's suicide; The Atkins Diet fad; Michael Glatze's meltdown; All comic book movies; Mark Prior; Paul Wellstone's death; Star Wars I-III

  • From my corner, the best and the worst were the same thing: the death of print and the rise of the .mp3; or, the rise of quantity and the decline of quality. The ether is an enormous space saver, I adore Project Gutenberg, and the international access to art and information is wonderful. Books are dying, however, and any work not available in fast inks and durable paper (i.e., books not at the mercy of a powered device) will be at risk of being lost.

    Music, too. What a space-saver the .mp3 is, and huzzah for the return of the single! But the sound quality is so weak and lame. My vinyl sounds beautiful, especially the 78s, and I could play them with a Dixie cup and a needle if need be. But my .mp3 collection, and even my hard backup, can be lost in a blink, or be unplayably obsolete in a year. Check out my minidiscs and laserdiscs if you doubt.

  • best: george bush couldn't steal the white house a third consecutive time
    worst: george bush is not sitting in maximum security facing five counts of capital treason. with dick cheyney testifying for the prosecution

  • In 2000, I didn't know what ctrl/alt/delete was. In 2009, I am now considered an IT expert. So, I can't complain from a professional standpoint.

    Macro Best: The sun began to set on the puritanical white domination of America.

    Macro Worst: Earth's environment can now be considered in critical condition.

  • Worst: Easy call–W.'s re-election. Not simply for the awfulness it ushered in, but for what it said about us as a nation of voters. Chalk the first (not-quite-legitimate) election up to Clinton fatigue and a terrible campaign by a genuinely swell candidate. But after 4 years of jaw-droppingly staggering fuck-uppery, re-electing the Bush/Cheney ticket is really one of the most powerful arguments in favor of Kent Brockman's declaration: "I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work." Shame on us. (On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that if Kerry had won, Lieberman would have been Vice-President. So, you know, silver linings.)

    Best: Election of Obama. Hollow, maybe–a set-up for disappointment when everything didn't change as a result, definitely–but really, who gives a shit? What it meant in terms of the incremental move towards genuine racial equality in this country speaks volumes. Long way to go? Yes. Nowhere near economic or social parity? Unquestionable. But holy shit, man–we bawled as a nation for a reason that election night, because MLK's dream got a little bit closer.

  • Best: Blogosphere is a good thing. Many voices, much access. More information–more light. Also more crap. More bests: Obama. Sotomayor. Annise Parker. Hilary Clinton. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Rachel Maddow.

    Worst: Decline of comprehensive sex education under W, resulting increase in stds and unwanted pregnancy, and astounding decrease in access to reproductive services of all kinds. Increase (weirdly) in violence against abortion providers. More worsts: Glenn Beck, still alive Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann.

  • I too was saddened by the lost of Pluto. There are too many worsts to list, but for bests I will add Hulu and Netflix. Remaining socially relevant without having to be ripped off by a cable company or watch all of the horrible commercials is pretty great. Also the rise of internet only "TV shows," for example Dr. Horribles Sing Along Blog, The Guild, (I'll confess I even like Legend of Neil.) This has engabled really creative people to succeed in delivering humor to all without having to fight with the major networks, kind of like Public Access television, but way cooler.

  • Maybe not best, but definitely very good: (1) ideologically, atheists beginning to come out of the woodwork and stand up to the domestic wahhabis. Hopefully in the next decade they'll also become organized as a political mass. (2) socially and culturally, ever more immigration to dilute the suffocating Christian whiteness that's had a stranglehold on this country so far.

    Very bad: (1) the age of fake prosperity built on Visa, MasterCard and derivatives seems to be over, but no one knows what to replace it with; (2) not enough people with any power giving much of a damn yet about weaning the country off those doomed fossil fuels.

    Of course, a loony wacko on the Right would have a list completely different from mine. Exempli gratia: unqualified good things : putting a 'man of faith' (and his sociopathic shogun) in the White House, twice; very bad things: the continued existence of Nancy Pelosi, Daily Kos, and the Middle East.

  • The truth is all things are a double edged sword; its just that sometimes, one edge is much sharper than the other. TS

  • Worst~ dubya's re-election
    best ~ Obama's election (though I'm getting worried)

    And leave LOL Cats alooooone!!1! Also.

  • The best and worst?
    I'm gonna take the Zen approach and say: they are the same.
    The Best: Humankind got a front row seat to the NeoCon Theatre; got to see just how much horror results from letting ignorant, flag-waving demagogues run things; they (Americans) got to see some real life War-Death, friends and neighbors blown to cat-food in pursuit of a hack politician's penis-envy. When you run into some soldier's family on the street, make sure to remind them that no matter how useless or counter-productive the particular mission they were asked to die for actually was, it served a political/financial purpose for some connected plutocrat back home.
    That's my Best. If even some of my fellow Americans would clue into the fact that the people running this country consider them cannon-fodder, that'd be enough for me to call the '00's worthwhile.
    Absent that awareness, fuck 'em. Let them re-learn the lesson the hard way….

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