Ahhh, the year-end list.
For news writers, it's a subtle signal to readers that their publication has early holiday deadlines and they had to hurry up and turn something in.
For critics, it's often an exercise in hipper-than-thou opacity.
"Wouldn't it be sweet if an album took the prickly psych damage of Black Dice but made it work in the context of epic rock, so that it had the cathartic build of early Mogwai?"
That's an actual sentence from Pitchfork's "The 50 Best Albums of 2008" list. And for the record, no it wouldn't be sweet.
I've written two year-end lists:
Top Five Best-Named World Leaders of 2008
5. Condoleeza Rice – Rice is a lousy Secretary of State. I won't miss her when she's gone. But I will miss the funny headlines she generates when she travels to Asia for work. Gems like the AP's Nov. 30 "Bush sends Rice to India in aftermath of attacks" will soon be a thing of the past.
4. Hu Jintao – When I hear Chinese President Hu Jintao's name, I imagine conversations between President Bush and his Asian policy briefers. "President Hu is on the phone for you, sir." "President who?" "President Hu. From China, sir." "Don't ask me who. You're the one who's supposed to remember his name."
3. Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck – Crowned King of Bhutan by his father last month, this 28-year-old hunky Himalayan has all the ladies in Bhutan singing "Everybody Wangchuck Tonight."
2. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, of Vietnam – Tan Dung? Have you seen a doctor for that, Prime Minister?
1. Al-Wathiqu Billah Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah – That's a real name. Honest. He is the King (a.k.a. the Yang di-Pertuan Agong) of Malaysia. He's only 46, so expect to see him at no. 1 on this particular list for decades to come.
That reminds me, I want to give a shout-out to Larry Tesler. Tesler invented the copy-and-paste function for word processors in the '70s. That last item wouldn't have been possible without him.
Five People Who Also Should Have Had Shoes Thrown at Them in 2008
5. Nouri al-Maliki – After Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi threw his shoes at President Bush at a press conference in Iraq this month, Bush tried to spin the incident as a size 10 vindication of the Iraq war. "That's what happens in free societies," he said. Credible reports have since surfaced saying Maliki's goons have tortured al-Zeidi and forced him to write an apology. Free society, indeed. Shoe Maliki now.
4. Colin Powell – A leaked report on the failed Iraq occupation quotes former Secretary of State Powell saying the Pentagon systematically lied about progress in Iraq way back in 2003. Powell knew it then, but he's only telling us now. Thanks for nothing, Colin. You deserve a combat boot to the head for every U.S. troop killed in Iraq.
3. Mikheil Saakashvili – In August, the President of Georgia provoked a stupid war with Russia that left tens of thousands of Georgians dead and homeless. He then took $30 million in U.S. reconstruction aid and built a five-star boutique hotel. Saakashvili needs a Saak-of-sneakers tossed at him, immediately.
2. Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe's dictator would rather see everyone in his country dead than relinquish power. His most recent crime: allowing a cholera outbreak to spread through Zimbawbe's water supply. He blames it on a foreign conspiracy, not his failure to maintain his country's water treatment plants. Tens of thousands could die as a result of his stupidity. There aren't enough shoes at the Zappos.com warehouse to throw at his head.
1. Burma's military junta -- When Category 4 Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma in May, the goons who run Burma were not only unprepared but refused to admit foreign relief workers. Approximately 150,000 innocent Burmese died. The junta needs to be buried alive under a Foot Locker.
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