I like you. Do you like me? Here are Gratuitous World’s favorite people of 2009.
10. Anna Paquin: Until my Old Lady sat me down to watch HBO’s True Blood, I scoffed at the recent interest in Vampire-related media. After all, I thought we went through that phase in the 90s. Not to mention the 1890s. Paquin’s character is a refreshing female lead, not afraid to stand up for her convictions, or take her top off. Titties!
9. Dr. Atul Gawande: Gawande’s New Yorker article, The Cost Conundrum, was the best piece I read on America’s broken health care system. While avoiding much of the finger-pointing that makes up the current “debate,” Dr. Gawande’s article addresses many fundamental behaviors in need of correction, including those of doctors, patients, hospitals and insurance companies. While offering no “magic bullets,” he does offer concrete examples of systems such as the Mayo Clinic and Grand Junction, Colorado, where good care and coverage are provided, while costs remain low. Great article.
8. Phish: I was skeptical when one of my favorite bands announced their return after a 5-year absence. Anyone who saw their disastrous final ’04 effort at Coventry knows what I’m talking about. However, a little time off and some sobriety have done the men well. They’re having fun on stage and the audience is returning the favor. Following the band’s tours provided me with much enjoyment over the year. And yes, I did rank the “jam band” Phish between a widely renowned doctor and a Supreme Court Justice. Please feel free to bring the ridicule.
7. Justice Sonja Sotomayor: In 2009, I discovered “empathy” was a naughty, naughty word. And of course we found out “judicial activism” now means any decision in disagreement with Conservative dogma. We also discovered your sex and ethnic background are really important, unless of course you’re an old white man. On a related note, if you graduate at the top of your class at 2 Ivy League Institutions, and you’re not a white male, it’s obviously the result of affirmative action.
While Sotomayor has yet to surprise with her votes on the bench or author any transcendent opinions, she’s on this list for handling her confirmation with class. She had more federal judicial experience than any nominee for the Court in the last 100 years. She was more than qualified, yet had to let bigots like Sen. Jeff Sessions drag her through the mud for weeks. While I understand the nature of confirmation hearings, I don’t think I’ve seen so many (untrue + unneccessary) personal attacks levied at a SC candidate in my lifetime. That includes you, Justice Thomas.
Sotomayor handled the entire circus with grace and class – especially for a hot-blooded Latina!
6. David Rohde: Unless Dick Cheney wants to talk out of his ass about something, America’s mainstream media hasn’t paid much attention to our actual conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan for about 6 years. That’s one reason Rhode’s 5-part NYT series “Held By The Taliban” is so powerful. Rohde spent almost a year in captivity, and this series provides amazing (and much-needed) insight into our enemies, their culture, and the daunting challenges presented to our troops and the region’s civilians. Please read it.
5. Dr. George Tiller (deceased): ”In 1993, George Tiller was shot in both arms. He did not let this stop him from returning to work and helping women caught in the most difficult of circumstances. He continued in his work despite daily harassment. He continued in his work despite being labeled a “baby killer” no less than 28 times by Bill O’Reilly. He continued despite lies told about him by O’Reilly and others. He continued until an anti-abortion activist entered the church where he was attending worship, and shot George Tiller through the eye at close range.”
4. David Eggers: Screenplays for Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go are both laudable, but his book Zeitoun was the true highlight of Eggers’ prolific year.
3. Stephen T. Colbert: Stephen did nothing specific, except maintain the most intelligent, creative, and humorous show on television. Suck it, Charlie Rose.
2. The Ricketts’ Family + Rocky Wirtz: While the Ricketts family has yet to do much, listening to the new Chicago Cubs’ owners talk about their vision for the franchise makes me smile. For decades, the Tribune and Wrigley corporations ran this franchise into the ground. They continue to be a laughingstock, but I sense a bright future ahead – right after they unload Soriano’s contract in 4 years.
While it’s never easy to lose a father, it was readily apparent what Rocky Wirtz needed to do in order to bring fans back to the Chicago Blackhawks. He first needed his father (“Dollar” Bill) to die so he could take over the team. He then needed to put the games back on tv. Genious! Finally, add the best young team in the NHL and hockey is back in Chicago for the first time since Larmer, Chelios, and Roenick made it happen in the early 90s. Fantastic!
1. The Iranian Opposition: Every year in countries we don’t care about, courageous people put their lives on the line to protest injustice and attempt to effect needed change. Obviously, in places like Myanmar and Sudan, struggles against oppressive regimes are ongoing. Kudos to those who keep fighting.
While we clearly pay a lot of attention to Iran for different reasons, the continued opposition to the election fraud, violence, and overall oppression is truly amazing. While these disillusioned masses don’t represent the entire country, the images have been poignant and their ongoing fight against a misguided and corrupt regime is truly inspirational.
Hopefully, this is one occasion where America can sit back and watch this unfold organically. So to those with a warped interpretation of “American exceptionalism” and a selective memory of history(1953) – people like Mike Pence and Joe Lieberman - please shut the fuck up on the matter. Good luck in 2010.
Thanks to Paul for his assistance. This decade should be better. Let’s rock out 2009.