Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Year of Surprises

Well, I guess the time has come again to write the retrospectives. This was such a crazy year for me, I almost shudder at the thought of thinking of it again all at once as a whole...

I'm going resist the temptation to list my top movies of the year (which would probably include Oceans Thirteen, Hairspray and Charlie Wilson's War) or albums of the year (though I highly recommend Kyle's list) or books of the year (since I was writing my dissertation for the first several months of 2007, I missed a lot of them). Instead, I'm going to list things that genuinely surprised me this past year.

The thing is, I had two MAJOR surprises this year, which I never saw coming and which have impacted my life in ways that I cant really quantify or describe. First, that I would end up (employed!) back in my hometown of Memphis. Second, that I would be single for the first time in almost 8 years. Those were the big ones. Yup, let's move on...

Here are the little surprises that 2007 gave me:

1. Let's start with the metaphysical. I was surprised to learn this year that good and evil actually do exist in the world. And those two forces are working in our universe in the form of the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. The Colts are good. The Pats are evil. And Bill Belichick is the devil. The way this season of the NFL is looking, the apocalypse is nigh.

2. I may have come late to this insight, so it may only be a "surprise" for me, but I also realized this year that the two greatest living actors of our time are Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling. I didn't see Gosling's masterpiece Half Nelson until the beginning of this year, but it is one of the finest performances I've ever seen. And although I have seen Hoffman in a lot of great performances, I was floored by his turn in the recently released Charlie Wilson's War. He is the definition of a "scene-stealer." The thing about both Gosling and Hoffman is that they're so subtle that it almost hides their brilliance. Almost.

3. I am finally willing to concede that the cosmic draw of Justin Timberlake is both undeniable and deserved. Earlier this year I saw my fellow Memphian's HBO concert special. Then, I couldn't get his songs out of my head and bought the album. Of course, I hid this from everyone I knew... but I slowly came to realize that even my snooty-taste music friends liked him. The thing is, Timberlake may be the single best musical "performer" out there-- something that is no doubt attributable to his years in the Disney Machine and later in the massively popular boy band NSYNC. But he's also got a tremendous amount of talent, which is something he does not share with his fellow Disney clones or ex-boy-banders. And did I mention he's from Memphis?

4. On a more serious note, I have to say that I continued to be surprised in 2007 that we are still debating the morality of torture. The CIA actually had to compile a list earlier this year of interrogation do's and dont's in order to see if they are in accord with the Geneva Convention. And in a classic case of "where there's smoke, there's fire", we learned at the end of this year that the CIA had been destroying interrogation tapes. This particular issue has been surprising (and deeply troubling) me for a while now-- ever since I was shocked to discover in a straw poll I conducted in one of my ethics classes that only about 5% of my students would say "unequivocally" that torture was immoral.

5. Relatedly, I was surprised to learn from several Supreme Court cases this year that, well, habeus corpus ain't what it used to be. Everyone should make their first New Year's resolution a commitment to avoid being classified an "enemy combatant."

6. Finally, and this one came late in the year, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I do still love philosophy. The whole dissertation-writing and -defending, job-marketing, new-job-starting process can suck the life and joy out of anyone. I'm happy to find it didn't take all of mine.

Here's hoping that in 2008 I can be a good deconstructionista and remain open to the unforseeable. Venir, a venir!


Booga Face said...

Justin Timberlake -- I don't completely understand it, but I have to agree. For sure, he is talented as hell (as an actor too), mos def, but there's something else too... but what? What is it that forces me to like him despite myself? Damn it!!!

You know, if he were an enemy combatant, then we'd all love him even more and want to be him more than ever.... Oh wait, don't we all secretly want to be enemy combatants already? Wasn't that the point of Fight Club?

Brooke said...
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Brooke said...

Don't forget Ryan Gosling was a Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer, too - like Justin. It's true. I saw it on E! ;)

Doctor J said...

wow, Brooke. I had no idea that Ryan Gosling came out of Disney, too!

Speaking of other Disney clones, though, I actually think Christina Aguilera is pretty talented as well.

petya said...

I like Britney too. I used to LOVE her but she's making it really hard for me these days.