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2005: A certain peevishness

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by basso, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    if you don't read Lileks, you really should:

    http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.18876/article_detail.asp

    --
    A 2005 Rollick
    By James Lileks

    Behold: 2005 was the most important year in human history.

    Okay, maybe not. There have been better years, and worse ones. The Goths did not sack New York City. No plague. Asteroids didn’t deform the globe. The center held, and if some rough beast was slouching toward Bethlehem it appears he was diverted to a time-share in Branson for the season.

    Nothing blew up—over here at least. Despite the usual rash of false alarms, Americans no longer seem to be waiting for the other shoe bomber to drop. The economy grew much more than gloomy reporters expected. The Batman movie was good, for a change. No one on the Supreme Court tested positive for steroids. Politically, the Administration seemed determined to get the third year of its second term out of the way in the first.

    All in all, not bad. If something wretched happens in 2006, Aught-Five will be regarded like 2000, another year when we blithely sailed along, amusing ourselves with gaudy TV, insouciant Internet amusements, Powerball, and the transient couplings of toothsome thespians. Athens reborn!

    It certainly didn’t feel like a golden age. It’s difficult to believe you live in the best of times when Hollywood recreates The Dukes of Hazzard and the producers are not stoned in the public square on general principle. We all recognize hard times—when you’re in a gas line, you feel it. But good times we sometimes notice only in the rearview mirror.

    There was something of a peevish quality to 2005. Perhaps it’s the year itself; odd-numbered years sound indecisive and inconclusive—shave-and-a-haircut without the two bits. Odd- numbered years never have an Olympics. No great clanging election campaigns. They slump and wander. By contrast, even-numbered 2006 has a hard, clear sound to it, a ring of promise and purpose.

    Most of what occurs in any given year will be forgotten. 2006 will be the same, unless aliens land, or someone perfects cold fusion, or North America is depopulated by bird flu and tumbleweeds bounce down the streets of Fargo (more than the usual number, that is). But toting up tomorrow’s details will have to wait. For now, let us review what was memorable and forgettable in the year just now ending.

    Iraqis voted in record numbers in January. Actually, any number would’ve been a record; apart from Israel’s perennial political tussles, this is the first real election in the Middle East since the Pharaoh’s stone masons voted to unionize. (All were slaughtered.) Coupled with a popular headcount in Afghanistan and rumblings all through the Levant and Central Asia, it seems for a moment that democracy is on the march. This global advance will soon screech to a halt, however, when the world learns that prisoners in Gitmo are kept awake with loud Madonna music. This grave atrocity will keep some politicians busy for months, for instance in comparing American troops to Nazis. You know, the ones who blasted Lotte Lenya tunes in the gas chambers.

    The President makes a pitch for Social Security reform in his State of the Union speech. The reform would allow some workers to direct a miniscule percentage of their mandatory, government-run pensions into private funds. Within 48 hours, Bush foes have many citizens convinced his plan will force all seniors to exchange their checks for vouchers good at Cat Food Distribution Centers run by the Enron corporation. The President also makes a pitch for a Constitutional Amendment to prevent the redefinition of marriage. It soon becomes the Amendment That Dares Not Speak Its Name.

    Superbowl Sunday. After Janet Jackson's 2004 nipple debacle left scientists wondering whether she might have the power to slow the spin of hurricanes or stop the mutation of deadly viruses, all other world controversies are temporarily knocked off stage to see if she would return. Sadly, Paul McCartney kept his shirt on.

    Social Security reform is declared dead. But no one can find the body. The White House will later insist that reform is merely missing; it slipped out the back of the executive mansion, bolted through the Rose Garden, and was last seen swimming across the Potomac. “We’re confident it will return soon,” stated one aide. “It has nowhere else to go.” There were unconfirmed reports that Social Security reform had been spotted frolicking on a Mexican beach with the Defense of Marriage Amendment. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Pope John Paul II dies. To the horror of many, his successor turns out to be Catholic.

    Gitmo torture tales surface again in May, as Newsweek claims that a Koran was flushed down a toilet. The story is later retracted. Did no one at Newsweek consider the difficulty of flushing a book down a commode? Probably its elitist reporters and editors have Mexican housekeepers who do all their flushing for them.

    John Bolton is nominated to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N., despite his moustache. The U.N. tower has 38 stories, Bolton once noted, and “if you lost ten stories today it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” To the contrary, insisted Bolton’s critics, the uppermost floors are devoted to tsunami advance-warning detection, non-polluting hydrogen power, and a cheap AIDS vaccine that also doubles as a dessert topping—all almost ready for release. Bolton is later given a “recess appointment,” which is something Presidents can do whenever grade schools are not in session. When our new ambassador arrives at his U.N. office he finds that, yup, just like at State, the keyhole has been filled with Superglue

    Rumors persist in the media that there is a new left-wing radio network called “Air America.”

    Darfur victims petition Janet Jackson to show up and partially disrobe, if only to get the world’s attention. Alas, this works no better than their previous request to have Terry Schiavo moved to the Sudan, in the hopes of catching a reporter’s ear after he’s finished his hourly update on the saline levels in her intravenous bag.

    An oppressive colonizer is forced to withdraw from occupied Arab land. This is initially met with dancing in the streets of Cairo, Paris, and Turtle Bay. Then everyone realizes it is Syria pulling out of Lebanon. You must understand that the Cedar Revolution, after years of Syrian domination, has nothing to do with the American presence in Iraq, you jingoist. It’s just one of those international coincidences like the moon being where it was when Apollo 11 flew past. A few months later, Israel voluntarily withdraws from Gaza, earning approximately 17 seconds of good will from the international community. Personal best!

    Iran announces it will no longer allow inspectors into the Khomeini Memorial Peaceful Nuclear Research Facility for Hastening the Destruction of Israel. European diplomats threaten to take the matter to the U.N. Subcommittee of the Task Force for Occasionally Threatening to Issue a Strongly-Worded Report. But the group’s next meeting isn’t until 2007, and it must first take up the horror of Israel’s security fence. Iran promises to allow inspections in exchange for 500 million Euros, payable in coins of enriched uranium. The E.U. agrees, with the condition that the interest rate on the loan will be adjusted upward if Iran makes nuclear bombs. If they actually detonate a bomb there would be an immediate balloon payment, make no mistake about it.

    North Korea’s envoy approaches a negotiation table in Beijing at an oblique angle. He traces a tic-tac-toe grid in the dust on its surface. He wanders off again. Whistling.

    Summer movie season. Ticket sales are way down, and Hollywood wallows in self-pity, wondering what America really wants. The studios collect a stack of comment cards nine miles high that show Americans are craving movies about NASCAR racers who join the Marines, go to Iraq, and kill terrorists with martial arts kicks. The comment cards also indicate that most Americans have no idea where the accent falls on “Affleck.” With all of this in mind, astute producers greenlight a picture about how Edward R. Murrow valiantly kept Joe McCarthy from introducing the Patriot Act. Quentin Tarantino starts another film where some guys, okay?, hip guys in black suits, dig? (who turn out to be neo-Nazi, Christian, Canadian separatists) fly planes into public schools. The cockpit-encounter dialogue is killer. Why do they call it a cockpit, man? You don’t think that’s gay? You think the whole shape of the plane is an accident? It’s all just suppressed homoeroticism, man. In the climax, the bad guys will ram their Boeing into a school that refuses to teach Intelligent Design.

    Bombs explode in London, as perfectly ordinary apolitical young men driven to extremes by America’s imposition of elections in Iraq react the only possible way: by driving metal through the flesh of British commuters.

    The 1,587th death in Iraq provokes no major display of eye-catching graphics in the Western media, as it is not a round number.

    John Roberts is nominated to the Supreme Court. The snarkblogs point out that he wore plaid pants in the ’70s, and that his children may yet. He is confirmed nevertheless. There are tense moments, however, when Senator Feinstein attempts to plumb his feelings as a man and father. This seems to be a new standard for top jurists. Roberts refuses to profess that he would powder the bottom of the Bill of Rights, tuck it in, leave a light on, and play new-agey music softly while he read a book in the next room, one ear cocked should the Constitution wake up crying because it had a nightmare about an emanation chasing a penumbra. He is confirmed nevertheless.

    A small piece of yellowcake is indicted for leaking the real first name of Scooter Libby.

    Cindy Sheehan’s application for a mortgage on a small piece of a Texas driveway is approved. Most of the major networks are listed as co-signers.

    Hurricane Katrina strikes precisely at the moment when the dynamite charges, personally installed by Karl Rove, blow up New Orleans’s levees. Teams of the same ninjas the Bushies used to rig the Diebold voting machines have already disabled the buses that could be used in evacuation. Initial media reports indicate that refugees in the Superdome have resorted to murder, cannibalism, voodoo, keno, and possibly jai alai. FOX anchor Shep Smith is consumed on camera by zombies. His last words indicate that he shares their outrage, if not their desire for sweet, sweet brains. In the weeks that follow it becomes obvious that the hurricane was caused by global warming—specifically, a 0.07 percent rise in median ocean temperature that caused New Orleans police officers to snatch DVDs from Wal-Mart shelves. The destruction of New Orleans, and the attendant effect on refinery capacity, is exposed by media crusaders as part of a GOP plot to raise gas prices and cripple the economy in time for the midterm elections, so they can run on a platform of “You like that? You want some more? Well do you?”

    October. After years of haranguing the U.S. for refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, E.U. leaders admit they will miss their own Kyoto guidelines, and have actually increased greenhouse emissions by 1.1 percent. Hurricanes level Paris and Stockholm.

    Harriet Miers is nominated for the Fairfax school board. No, wait—the Supreme Court. Half of the conservative base decides this is the opportune time to freak out and toss pitchforks of smoldering tinder to the opposition. Hey, not all the wheels are coming off the Administration—let us help you with that balky bolt! More innovative conservatives drop their opposition to human cloning and urge the President to start an NIH program for growing fresh new Scalias in petri dishes. Miers’s nomination is withdrawn after it is revealed she was actually a cyborg, sent from the future by Karl Rove’s son to revitalize the conservative base. She is disassembled and put in storage. Her replacement, Sam Alito, makes everyone happy, except some on the Left who insist he will take a backhoe to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s grave while humming the theme from The Godfather. But they are a slight minority of senators.

    Washington is ablaze with buzz: It appears that Karl Rove, acting on telekinetically transmitted orders from Dick Cheney’s throbbing brain, told “Scooter” Libby something, and he then hinted to “Biff” Novak and “Muffy” Miller that Valerie “Hidden in Plain Sight” Plame is actually Super Secret Agent Double-Y Seven. This completely blew her deep cover—she had been known publicly as an Iranian nuclear weapons program expert. Imagine the mullahs’ surprise when her beard came right off with one tug! Right away, the Marines had to extract Plame from The Palm during a crowded lunch hour, at great risk.

    The purpose of the telekinetic plot was to discredit Joe Wilson for reporting he had been to Niger, visited the docks one morning, and never once heard anyone shout “Hoist the yellowcake into the hold of this Iraqi cargoship, lads!” After Wilson concluded the Iraqis merely wanted to buy Niger’s primary export—novelty figurines that glowed in the dark and made your hair fall out if you stood too close—traitorous leakers went to work. That was too much for the crusading media, who are well known for hating leaks and zealously guarding national security secrets.

    Saddam’s trial begins. His lawyer first asks for a California jury. He then considers calling April Glaspie to the stand for the “b*tch set me up” defense. He begins working on rhyming cadences for his jury summation. Saddam and counsel ultimately admit to several hundred thousand murders, but invoke a novel defense: Executive Privilege. Ultimately, Hussein refuses to recognize the court’s legitimacy, and demands a change of venue to a Judge Judy show, tentatively scheduled for February. This brings up the possibility that Saddam will not only be the first Arab dictator to answer for his crimes in court, but also the first one to be executed by yelling.

    The Iraqi constitution, a Middle East milestone, is approved. But hey! Over there! It’s Britney and her new baby! Everybody grab your cameras and run after her! Dang: false alarm. Anyway, what was that about Iraq? Right: They chose their own rules of governance. Yet statistics show voter participation is down significantly—from 99.99 percent in Saddam’s day, to 60 percent.

    Hard as it seems for some to believe, this is good news.
     
  2. Ubiquitin

    Ubiquitin Contributing Member
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    Most profound memory of 2005. Katrina and its aftermath.
     

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