Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Charge Aught!!!: No, You Didn’t Define the Decade

andy_richter_controls_the_universe_the_complete_series_dvdNot everything can be memorable – today, our crack writing staff says some words about the stuff that no one’s going to remember ten years from now.

The only surprise? No one actually wrote about Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Or The Matrix. Shit, in retrospect, we really dropped the ball.

uss_enterprise Craig: In a decade predicted to have flying cars and helper-cum-warrior robots, the closest we came to such monumental breakthroughs was the advent of space tourism.  People paid decadent amounts of money for the opportunity to visit the International Space Station.  Equally decadent amounts of money were promised as prizes for engineers able to come up with commercially viable options for space flight.  In the end, the bulk of us remained Earth-bound.

Only seven people this decade have earned the title "space tourist."  Seven.  That's not even one per year.  And I'm sorry, but the company doing this is called Space Adventures.  That sounds like a kiddie roller coaster or a game for my Intellivision (Remember Intellivision?  Me neither).  In the meantime, we've got Sir Richard Branson claiming he can send what are effectively airplanes with More Power into space.  I was promised hover cars and ubiquitous android servants.  I'll believe Space Tourism when I actually see it.

kindle Rob: I don't care how big Jeff Bezos is smiling - Amazon's Kindle wasn't a big deal. Even if the whole e-reader thing doesn't sink tits-up into obscurity, history will view their clunky, trendy device as laughably primitive - like the Game Boy, but with less fondness.

Much was made about the Kindle's popularity when it launched in November 2007. Slender, chalk-white and intriguing, the Kindle could store hundreds of books and download newspapers, magazines and blogs in four shades of gray with a wireless modem.

If this sounds good to you - $399 worth of good - then perhaps you helped Amazon boast that it sold out of the Kindle in 5.5 hours. However, the Internet superstore declined to say how many Kindles were sold, and reports have since indicated that Amazon was hedging its bets with a limited production run.

We can debate the Kindle's success as a device in another place, at another time - for the record, I think it's clumsy, cold and incredibly creepy - but the real question remains: will people buy eBooks? If Amazon is to be believed, the answer is yes - the company reports a spike in sales for the 2009 Christmas season. I say no. As an avid reader and gadget freak, I fall within Amazon's target demographic, and i still say anything over $199 is too much.

The entry of Barnes & Noble's e-reader Nook suggests that the game may truly be afoot. But as the book (ahem) closes on this decade, I can safely say the Kindle was a novelty item for the disposable-income class - far from special, and even farther from revolutionary.

zune-tattoo Andrew: The iPod's meteoric rise to power this decade is remarkable in part because the music player stands virtually uncontested, but even so there are some who, out of contrariness and spite, will buy other products in spite of lingering incompatibilities and shortcomings. One such product was Microsoft's Zune.

The Zune, with its big ol' screen and Microsoft backing, was supposed to be the first serious competitor to Apple's iPod. It let you share files between Zunes, it played movies, it avoided Apple's awful Windows version of iTunes, but alas and alack, sales were awful and word of mouth didn't help much either - both of my Zune-owning friends endorse it with hearty and convincing mumbles of "it's okay" or "I didn't want an iPod." Our nation's President saw fit to deny Zune ownership when accused.

Once, people attached the phrase "iPod killer" to the Zune - now, its most associated phrase is "we no longer carry the Zune family of products."

yahoo_logo Chris: On January 3rd 2000, a mere two days into this decade, Yahoo.com's stocks closed at an all-time high of $118.75 a share. At this point, Google was a mere blip on the radar of the Internet, and Yahoo! was the undisputed king of the search engine, of free email, and perhaps of the entire World Wide Web. This was supposed to be the future - one website that would offer games, news, stock quotes, sports scores, and email all in one place.

But Yahoo! reached too far. It managed to survive the dot-com-crash of 2000, but since then it's been struggling to establish an identity or direction. Despite the fact it still claims a large number of users, Yahoo! has since become the fuddy-duddy of the Internet world - a relic from a previous age that is long past relevant. Yahoo! missed the bandwagon on social networking, but their true killer has been Google. Yahoo! Mail lost to Gmail in terms of mail storage and convenience, and one can't help but compare Yahoo!'s cluttered homepage to the bare minimalism of their rival. Attempts by Yahoo! to procure other Internet start-ups like Flickr haven't prevented a large round of layoffs at the company earlier this year. If the aughts have seen Google's rise to power, they have also seen the decline and fall of the Yahoo! empire. 

human_cloning Steph: The fear of cloning seems to have been swept away behind the swell of more important moral dilemmas. In 2003 we cloned a horse. We eat cloned meat all the time, and we can almost make pork out of a living animal without harming it. Someone could give birth to a cloned human baby right now! But these sorts of announcements rarely have the cultural impact that we expected from a decade of such rapid technological advancements.

There are always the few who carry the banner of fear and those who are willing to make money off of them by creating low-profile movies, though Gattaca tapped out most of that market in 1997. The 2000s seemed to have had bigger and better fears to worry about like 06/06/06, 2012, abortion, stem cells, and war -- to name only a few. About half the states in this country have cloning laws, loosely slipping between therapeutic vs. reproductive, research vs. medical. It's like this debate dropped right off the radar this decade. Maybe because the 2000s have been so riddled with the moral consequences of the digital age (such as pirating digital media, the potential dangers of cell phone usage) scandals (capped off nicely with the celebrity gossip-tainment of Tiger Woods' private life) and the age of grand politics (see every election since 2000), we quickly forget about the minor cultural impacts of things like creepy science.

jake-gyllenhaal-shirtless-prince-of-persia-02 Gene:  Wasn't this the decade that videogames were supposed to gain widespread cultural legitimacy through adequate film adaptations?  Finally, we were going to shake the camp and mediocrity of the 90s productions and finally give our beloved titles the treatment they deserved.  Arguably, comic books have gone through this rite of passage in the aughts that seems to elude even the most 'cinematic' of videogames.  To be sure, there's little purchase in the idea of cramming the interactivity of a game into the static medium of film.  But the exercise remains some sort of benchmark for someone.   And dammit, Peter Jackson's Halo had some legs right?  It would certainly be better than the Uwe Boll collection, or Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within or the last Street Fighter movie, or Max Payne, or Hitman.  Maybe Prince of Persia will finally set things straight and put an end to the debate over whether Jake Gyllenhaal is totally hot or not. 

enron Pankin: I remember when some guy named Ken Lay was sentenced to go to prison over some corporate scandal. I don't recall all the details, but I know the whole affair involved a big accounting firm getting in trouble, a bunch of workers losing their pensions, and the Houston Astros having to change the name of their home baseball stadium (Enron Field became Minute Maid Park in 2002).

Everyone was up in arms about the scandal and how despicable the key players were to steal all that money and then try to hide it. "We have to do something," was the public outcry, "about the corporate structure of this country and how easy it is to get away with these horrible crimes!" But lo and behold, nothing really changed: reform was minimal (who here has heard of the Sarbannes-Oxley Act?) and corporations continue to thrive and lie and cheat and steal to this very day. At least we now have more stadiums named after banks and insurance companies than energy companies...

arrested-development-segway Jordan:  Damn.  I guess the Segway wasn't created just to make cops and tourists look stupid. Remember when Ginger (how could they expect it not to be silly when it had such a silly name?) was touted as an innovation that would change the way cities were planned?  I don't know about you, but I definitely started mentally rearranging funds in expectation of a flying car. Alas, my Jetsons-themed pipe dreams were just that.  When they revealed the Segway on Good Morning America on that (not) fateful day in 2001, I swear you could hear the entire country groan.  "A scooter?  Really?"

In the end, though, the Segway belly-flopped because it over-hyped itself.  The Vespa reintroduction to the American market wasn't anticlimactic because manufacturer Piaggio correctly predicted that an expensive specialty transportation device wouldn't become ubiquitous.

Begs the question, though:  which one's more femmy?

shit_my_dad_says_headstone Boivin: The Golden Age of the Internet was supposed to break the corporate hold over movies, music, television, etc. and totally free up the way in which people entertain themselves. No longer would some square in a suit decide what you're watching/listening to.

Well, that didn't necessarily happen. While Youtubes and the MyFace (my new band name, btw) certainly allow access to a wide range of artists, it's still the same four or five companies actually releasing them when they "hit it big". And the internet hasn't even become that revolutionary a way of distributing music or movies either. Remember when Radiohead released In Rainbows for whatever you wanted to pay for it? Every single band jumped on that wagon, right? No, not right.

Seemingly worst of all, they're making a "Shit My Dad Says" sitcom. Is nothing sacred? Man, these big corporations, man...