Dave Barry’s roundup of the best and worst of the previous 365(ish) days has been running in The Washington Post Magazine since 1989(ish). On Sunday, we’ll reveal his 2011 Year in Review; until then, a sampling of his last seven year-end stories, each one a time capsule of the weird, the wonderful and the things you wish you could forget.
Let’s put things into perspective: 2010 was not the worst year ever. There have been MUCH worse years. For example, toward the end of the Cretaceous Period, Earth was struck by an asteroid that wiped out about 75 percent of all of the species on the planet. Can we honestly say that we had a worse year than those species did? Yes, we can, because they were not exposed to “Jersey Shore.”
So on second thought we see that this was, in fact, the worst year ever. The perfect symbol for the awfulness of 2010 was the BP oil spill, which oozed up from the depths and spread, totally out of control, like some kind of hideous uncontrollable metaphor. (Or “Jersey Shore.”) The scariest thing about the spill was, nobody in charge seemed to know what to do about it. Time and again, top political leaders personally flew down to the Gulf of Mexico to look at the situation firsthand and hold press availabilities. And yet somehow, despite these efforts, the oil continued to leak. This forced us to face the disturbing truth that even top policy thinkers with postgraduate degrees from Harvard University -- Harvard University! -- could not stop it.
The leak was eventually plugged by non-policy people using machinery of some kind. But by then our faith in our leaders had been shaken, especially because they also seemed to have no idea of what to do about this pesky recession. Congress tried every remedy it knows, ranging all the way from borrowing money from China and spending it on government programs, to borrowing MORE money from China and spending it on government programs. But in the end, all of this stimulus created few actual jobs, and most of those were in the field of tar-ball collecting.
Things were even worse abroad. North Korea continued to show why it is known as “the international equivalent of Charlie Sheen.” The entire nation of Greece went into foreclosure and had to move out; it is now living with relatives in Bulgaria. Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons, all the while insisting that they would be used only for peaceful scientific research, such as -- to quote President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- “seeing what happens when you drop one on Israel.” Closer to home, the already strained relationship between the United States and Mexico reached a new low after the theft, by a Juarez-based drug cartel, of the Grand Canyon.
This is not to say that 2010 was all bad. There were bright spots. Three, to be exact:
1. The Yankees did not even get into the World Series.
2. There were several days during which Lindsay Lohan was neither going into, nor getting out of, rehab.
3. Apple released the hugely anticipated iPad, giving iPhone people, at long last, something to fondle with their other hand.
Other than that, 2010 was a disaster. To make absolutely sure that we do not repeat it, let’s remind ourselves just how bad it was. Let’s put this year into a full-body scanner and check out its junk ...[Read full story]
It was a year of Hope — at first in the sense of “I feel hopeful!” and later in the sense of “I hope this year ends soon!”
It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result, Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it, and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.
To be sure, it was a year that saw plenty of bad news. But in almost every instance, there was offsetting good news:
Bad news: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.
Good news: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.
Bad news: The downward spiral of the newspaper industry continued, resulting in the firings of thousands of experienced reporters and an apparently permanent deterioration in the quality of American journalism.
Good news: A lot more people were tweeting.
Bad news: Ominous problems loomed abroad as -- among other difficulties -- the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war.
Good news: They finally got Roman Polanski.
In short, it was a year that we will be happy to put behind us. But before we do, let’s swallow our anti-nausea medication and take one last look back [Read full story]
How weird a year was it? Here’s how weird:
* O.J. actually got convicted of something.
* Gasoline hit $4 a gallon -- and those were the good times.
* On several occasions, “Saturday Night Live” was funny.
* There were a few days there in October when you could not completely rule out the possibility that the next Treasury secretary would be Joe the Plumber.
* Finally, and most weirdly, for the first time in history, the voters elected a president who -- despite the skeptics who said such a thing would never happen in the United States-- was neither a Bush nor a Clinton.
Of course, not all the events of 2008 were weird. Some were depressing. The only U.S. industries that had a good year were campaign consultants and foreclosure lawyers. Everybody else got financially whacked. So, we can be grateful that 2008 is almost over. But before we leave it behind, let’s take a few minutes to look back and see if we can find some small nuggets of amusement. Why not? We paid for it ...[Read the full story]
It was a year that strode boldly into the stall of human events and took a wide stance astride the porcelain bowl of history.
It was a year in which roughly 17,000 leading presidential contenders, plus, of course, Dennis Kucinich, held roughly 63,000 debates, during which they spewed out roughly 153 trillion words; and yet the only truly memorable phrase emitted in any political context was, “Don’t tase me, bro!”
It was a year filled with bizarre, insane, destructive behavior -- an alarming amount of which involved astronauts.
In short, 2007 was a year of deep gloom, pierced occasionally by rays of even deeper gloom. Oh, sure, there were a few bright spots:
* Several courageous members of Congress -- it could be as many as a dozen -- decided, incredibly, not to run for president.
* O.J. Simpson discovered that, although you might be able to avoid jail time for committing a double homicide, the justice system draws the line at attempted theft of sports memorabilia.
* Toward the end of the year, entire days went by when it was possible to not think about Paris Hilton.
* Apple released the iPhone, which, as we understand it, enables users to fly, cure cancer, read minds and travel through time.
* The plucky, lovable New York Yankees once again found a way, against all odds, to bring joy to the literally billions of people who do not root for them.
* Dick Cheney did not shoot anybody, as far as we know.
But, other than that, 2007 was a disaster. American consumers came to fear products manufactured in China, which covers pretty much everything in the typical American home, except the dirt. Global warming continued to worsen, despite the efforts of leading climate experts such as Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio, who emerged briefly from private jets to give the rest of us helpful tips on reducing our carbon footprints.
On the economic front, the dollar continued to lose value against all major foreign currencies and most brands of bathroom tissue. There was a major collapse in the credit market, caused by the fact that for most of this decade, every other radio commercial has been some guy selling mortgages to people who clearly should not have mortgages. (”No credit? No job? On death row? No problem!”) It got so bad that you couldn’t let your dog run loose because it would come home with a mortgage. The subprime mortgage fiasco resulted in huge stock market losses, and the executives responsible, under the harsh rules of Wall Street justice, were forced to accept lucrative retirement packages.
So, they did okay. But, for the rest of us, it was another bad year. [Read full story]
It was a momentous year, a year of events that will echo in the annals of history the way a dropped plate of calamari echoes in an Italian restaurant with a tile floor. Decades from now, our grandchildren will come to us and say, “Tell us, Grandpa or Grandma, as the case may be, what it was like to be alive in the year that Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Britney Spears and Katie whats-hername all had babies, although not necessarily in those combinations.” And we will smile wisely and emit a streamer of drool, because we will be very old and unable to hear them.
And that will be a good thing, because there are many things about 2006 that we will not want to remember. This was the year in which the members of the United States Congress, who do not bother to read the actual bills they pass, spent weeks poring over instant messages sent by a pervert. This was the year in which the vice president of the United States shot a lawyer, which turned out to be totally legal inTexas. This was the year in which — as clearly foretold in the Bible as a sign of the Apocalypse — Howie Mandel wound up with a hit TV show.
Also, there were many pesky problems left over from 2005 that refused to go away in 2006, including Iraq, immigration, high gas prices, terrorism, global warming, avian flu, Iran, North Korea and Paris Hilton. Future generations are going to look back at this era and ask us how we could have allowed Paris Hilton to happen, and we are not going to have a good answer. [Read the full story]
How wack was 2005? Martha Stewart did time. Michael Jackson got off. The star of Washington’s biggest scandal was named ‘Scooter.’ And four years after 9/11, Katrina turned out to be a bigger threat than Osama. Crazy stuff, but not to worry: Herewith, eminent historian Dave ‘Booger’ Barry sorts it all out
It was the Year of the Woman. But not in a good way.
Oh, I’m not saying that men did nothing stupid or despicable in 2005. Of course they did! That’s why we call them “men.”
But women are supposed to be better than men. Women are the backbone of civilization: They keep families together, nurture relationships, uphold basic standards of morality and go to the bathroom without making noise. Women traditionally shun the kinds of pointless, brutal, destructive activities that so often involve men, such as mass murder and fantasy football.
But not this year. Women got crazy in 2005. Consider some of the year’s more disturbing stories, and look at the names connected with them: Martha Stewart. Judith Miller. Valerie Plame. Jennifer “Runaway Bride” Wilbanks. Paris Hilton. Greta “All Natalee Holloway, All the Time” Van Susteren. Harriet Miers. Katrina. Rita. Wilma. Michael Jackson.
Of course not all the alarming stories from 2005 involved women. Some of them involved men, and at least one of those men was named “Scooter.”
I’ll be honest: I don’t really know who “Scooter” is, or what he allegedly did. He’s involved in one of those inside-the-Beltway-style scandals that are very, very important but way too complicated for regular non-Beltway humans to comprehend. You try to read a Scooter story, and, next thing you know, you’re emerging from a coma weeks later with spiders nesting in your ears.
But whatever Scooter allegedly did, it was bad. We know this because pretty much all the news this year was bad. Oh, sure, there were some positive developments. Here is a complete list:
In some areas, the price of gasoline, much of the time, remained below $5 a gallon.
Nobody you know caught avian flu. Yet.
The Yankees once again failed to win the World Series.
Cher actually ended her farewell tour.
That was it for the good news. The rest of 2005 was a steady diet of misery, horror and despair, leavened occasionally by deep anxiety. So just for fun, let’s take a look back ... ]Read the full story]
Looking back on 2004, we have to conclude that it could have been worse.
“How??” you ask, spitting out your coffee.
Well, okay, a giant asteroid could have smashed into the Earth and destroyed all human life except Paris Hilton and William Hung. Or Florida could have been hit by 20 hurricanes, instead of just 17.
Or the Yankees could have won the World Series.
But, no question, 2004 was bad. Consider:
* We somehow managed to hold a presidential election campaign that for several months was devoted almost entirely to the burning issue of: Vietnam.
* Our Iraq policy, which was discussed, debated and agreed upon right up to the very highest levels of the White House, did not always seem to be wildly popular over there in Iraq.
* Osama bin Laden remained at large for yet another year (although we did manage, at long last, to put Martha Stewart behind bars).
* The federal budget deficit continued to worsen, despite the concerted effort of virtually every elected official in Washington -- Republican or Democrat -- to spend more money.
* As a nation, we managed somehow to get even fatter, despite the fact that anti-carbohydrate mania worsened to the point where the average American would rather shoot heroin than eat a bagel.
* The “reality”-show cancer continued to metastasize, so that you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing either Donald Trump or a cavalcade of dimwits emoting dramatically about eating bugs, losing weight, marrying a millionaire or remodeling a bathroom.
* Perhaps most alarming of all, Cher yet again extended her “farewell” tour, which began during the Carter administration and is now expected to continue until the sun goes out.
So, all things considered, we’re happy to be entering a new year, which, according to our calculations, will be 2005 (although the exit polls are predicting it will be 1997). But before we move on, let’s swallow our anti-nausea medication and take one last look back at 2004 ... [Read the full story]