Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Year in Review: January and Everything After

The Year that the Populace revolted. Egypt, Middle East, Occupy Wall Street. It was a year of major and minor uprising that showed the voice of the people still mattered. The Middle East and Africa saw their people overthrow their governments and it was a powerful reminder that people still have power. Occupy Wall St. may have had mixed results but their voice was a vital reminder of enough being enough.

That’s probably what led to the rise of Wikileaks, Julian Assange’s crusade to reveal the hidden truth. I don’t know if he’s doing this to speak truth or if he’s saying too much for no point except to be a TMZ-like figure, but he had a dramatic impact this year with his documents.

Blackberry’s Death. The king of smart phones has become a pauper because Research in Motion failed to innovate and be forward thinking like Apple. Despite their full keypad, their quality lagged behind iPhone and Android and folks began abandoning ship. It didn’t help that a 4-day power outage, poor apps, not making sure all phones had the capacity to upgrade and delaying their new phones til late 2012 were all bad signs.

The Death of Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Qaddafi – a year of uprising saw three of the most famous villains meet their end. Kim Jong Il was the last but perhaps the most significant considering nobody knows what direction N. Korea will take. Bin Laden was a key victory for US foreign policy, but not the end of terrorism or Al Qaeda. And you know who’s still around? Castro.

Consider this: Fidel Castro has been in charge of Cuba for 50 years. He’s been in charge longer than Obama’s been alive and has long outlived the fall of communism in Russia. You thought Koreans were bugged about Kim Jong Il dying? When Castro finally passes, it’s going to be a crazy domino effect.

For President Obama, 2011 had some successes. The war in Iraq has ended. Bin Laden was killed on his watch. The recession is slowing. The GOP candidates are a weak bunch that wouldn’t beat Hillary Clinton. Yet somehow someway, he has to deal with a Congress that refuses to work with him. 2012 is shaping up to be a crazy end game for his first term but I still think much must be done 

2011 also brought us Good Ole Herman Cain. Let Herm Cook was one of the popular sayings on Twitter as Cain got popular with his catchy sayings, plainspeak and frankly being a comfortable Black Republican. Unfortunately, he proved to be all hype with no backbone and no clear plan and when he proved to be unready for Prime Time, his unraveling was great. Even Sarah Palin thinks he needed to shut up and get smart.


Penn State. The fall of a legend for the sins of another. As I stated here earlier this year, Joe Paterno committed no moral crime. He is perhaps the 4th worst offender in all this. But no man is bulletproof. He was aware of what happened to those boys and it's sad that a legend has to leave like this but it's sadder that Jerry Sandusky abused his privileges. He took advantage of two organizations for his disgusting behavior.

The coverup of Penn State (combined with the scandals at Ohio State, Miami and the Fiesta Bowl fiasco) showed me that college football's facade is slowly being revealed. It's the last place where loyal fandom elevates individuals to god-like status (that doesn't happen in the pros anymore) and we are seeing the dangerous results of that.

Taylor Branch said it best in one of the year's finest stories, college football is a cartel where players are product and institutions make millions off them. If I may add, fans are customers and it's about time we see not just what we're given but the bigger picture.

1. The Packers win the SB and then go 15-1 as a followup.
2. The NBA in transition to a new era from my youth to the LeBron/Durant/Rose era (kinda how old heads must have felt in 1998/99 when Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, KG and Jason Kidd took over)
3.  Game 162 of the baseball season (Magical), Game 6 of the World Series (Un-BELIEVABLE, Pujols coming to the Angels*
4. Realizing that my Lakers are headed for one last run.
5. NFL/NBA lockouts, David Stern’s killing the CP3 trade – I was glad to see fans support the players and realize that the owners care mainly about making money instead of their satisfaction.
6. Cam Newton’s great year/Tim Tebow’s hype
7. The return of USC/the fall of UCLA to new lows
8. The Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA Title/The Heat's collapse
9. A weak college basketball year gave us two mid majors in the Final Four but also Kemba Walker being the definition of a leader in leading UConn to the title. 

I watched more soccer this year than I did in a non-World Cup year. The good news was appreciating the genius that is Lionel Messi and learning to understand the beauty of great soccer teams. Messi is without question a joy to watch but also discovering the future genius of Mexican wunderkund Chicarito will make me more intrigued to grow into a game I dismissed for so long. 

USC is poised to have make 2012 just like 2004 when they won the title. They are going to be loaded while UCLA welcomes a new coach, a shaky offense and not much to look forward to.

Everyone talked about the Heat, few people made a lot of sense when discussing them. They weren't built to win the title in Year One. Meanwhile Dallas didn't tell us that Dirk Nowitzki was poised to play possessed in one of the best postseasons I've seen in giving the Mavs - a longtime joke of my youth - and Mark Cuban that ring.

No matter what, I'll remember Game 162 and Game 6. Two magical nights of the 2011 season. I'll remember Albert Pujols' Game 3 as one of the greatest offensive performances in World Series history before he electrified Los Angeles coming to the Angels. 

The Dodgers had to deal with the end of the Frank McCourt era and his divorce from his wife. This season was supposed to be a downer of low expectations but I was able to see two young players I watched from the start develop into stars. Thank you Matt Kemp and Clayton "Cy Young Prince" Kershaw for saving this season. 

Television watched me fall in love again with Treme and Boardwalk Empire. Boardwalk ended on a shocking note while I enjoyed seeing the slice of New Orleans through the eyes of my favorite musicians and Treme folk. I enjoyed getting into Modern Family and peeking at Happy Endings but I really didn’t have too many new shows that I enjoyed.

The last season of Entourage was a mixed bag to some but I liked it. To me, it showed that everyone on that show had to grow up and realize what mattered. The fairy tale ending felt a bit much but I liked seeing Ari Gold brought to his knees and a reminder that Vince is at his core, a loyal friend that Drama, E and Turtle benefit from. I always saw Entourage as a show about not just Hollywood, but about friendship and relationships. Even Ari with Lloyd showed that as much as Ari crapped on his assistant, he needed him in more ways than he thought.

Moviewise, this was a pretty weak year filled with plenty of sequels and unimaginative superhero plots. I only saw a few films and my favorite was Midnight in Paris, a Woody Allen nostalgia trip that showed the glamour and danger of nostalgia as well as teaching people to appreciate the present.

I realized this year, Hollywood showed the essence of what it made attractive. Imagination, creativity, uniqueness, adding something extra to the product. As usual, the later films of the year brought that in time for Oscar bait (Hugo for one, looks like that from the surprising touch of Scorsese) but it seems like everyone is waiting for the greatness to emerge in 2012.

That said, I enjoyed crossing a few films off my list. Die Hard, Dog Day Afternoon.

Troy Davis became a big story because we watched the justice system kill a man who potentially was innocent. Reasonable doubt wasn’t enough to prevent a man from being executed. I’ll remember how angry I felt and how sad I was that night. I’ll remember how many folks rallied together and remember that the justice system is set up against certain folks so I have to remain vigilant.

Rest in Peace to the many we lost. A new year means remembering those who didn’t make it this far and we all know somebody who unfortunately got called home. Let’s honor their memory however you see fit. Play a song, watch a movie, just keep living.

I’ll have more to say when I officially cap my thoughts on this year but I can’t say how much I appreciated my blog this year as change came.  I’ll end this with 10 of my favorite posts of the year.

Writing on LCD Soundsystem (This became one of my most popular blogs and I’m grateful for that)

Reminding Folks the World Won’t End when Man says it

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