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January 12, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Guides | January 12, 2009 |

Another year, another (Sh)It list. Because there’s no end to our hatred.

The Anti-Pretentiousness Movement: Sure, this wasn’t new to 2008. But 2008 is when I really had it with this. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen it all before. Somewhere along the way, criticizing stupid movies or lousy music became a sign of pretension. Didn’t like a McG movie? It’s because you’re pretentious and don’t know how to “just enjoy a dumb action movie.” Thought Chinese Democracy was crap? Well, clearly it’s because you’re pretentious. Well, fuck that. Listen, just because we enjoyed a Stephen Soderbergh movie, and disliked Diary of a Mad Black Woman doesn’t mean we’re some sort of intellectual snobs. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy movies without subtitles. Somehow, simply the act of disliking something popular is now a sign of us thinking we’re somehow better than those who liked it. I guess I must not-so-respectfully beg to differ. You want the truth? The truth is that probably 75 percent (and that might be a conservative estimate) of all movies, television and music is shit. Absolute steaming, fetid, awful, shit. Just because it comes with flashy colors and bright lights doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile. Just because it makes a billion dollars doesn’t make it good. And just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean we’re pretentious assholes. Actually, I probably am a pretentious asshole — but it’s not because I didn’t like the new Britney Spears album. No, the reason I’m a pretentious asshole because I like to show off my knowledge of obscure shit. The reason I didn’t like the new Britney Spears album because it’s fucking garbage. — TK

Bailouts. Here’s an idea. You know how all the banks, creditors and financial whoseewhatsies started making bad business decisions in the name of greed? “Sure, you can totally afford this loan for that $1.5 million dream house with an annual income of only $35K!” And you know how those decisions have now blown up in their faces? Well here’s what we do — we give them mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money! Without making them take any real responsibility! I mean, why should the banks have to start acting like banks again? They shouldn’t give out loans with this new cash just because they can make some money. They should only give out loans when they can turn around and sell those loans for scads of money! That’s the American way! And if they can’t sell them, fuck the populous and giving out loans — let the banks just hold onto all this money we’re giving them. Hoard it up! (Shhh … just ignore what this did for Japan a decade ago. We’re America — we’ll get this shit right.) And for shits and giggles, let’s bail out Detroit too. Again, fuck corporate responsibility. Fuck forcing the unions to make concessions — why should a thousand guys in the fucking job bank have to collect unemployment like the rest of us schlubs who lose jobs? I know what you’re asking: “What about the rest of us?” I hear you — folks are hurting. At least one close family member of mine is likely to be laid off by months’ end, with nary a viable job prospect in sight. So he should get a bailout? Hell, I billed 2300 hours last year, but only got paid for 2100 of them. So I should get a fucking bailout? There have to be limits people. And we should draw the line at corporate welfare that requires no accountability or responsibility. And if this isn’t the best thing to do, no worries — it’s the future generations that are really going to pay for it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give this guy I know a hamburger and then sell his Tuesday repayment debit as part of a AAA fast food bond! — Seth Freilich

Cable News: Cable news is so totally, irretrievably dumb. Unless you’re moved by the muse and more skillful than I (see Baitz, Jon Robin ) writing even one, brief paragraph illustrating why is more a waste of words than a recipe for boiling water. But you’re at work, trying not to work. You’ve come to Pajiba for a bit of simpatico and a side of snark. Who am I do deny you that? We’ll ignore Fox because it’s the only thing that will make it go away but CNN and MSNBC are gaining ground in the race to see who can more deeply disgrace the profession of journalism. I flipped on the TV before starting to write this, curious what my options would be. The surprisingly inoffensive CNN Newsroom didn’t make me want to throw shoes at the TV. The always ludicrous Nancy Grace greeted me on Headline News (I’m convinced she only exists so Studio 60 could have one bit that didn’t blow). Not to be out done, MSNBC was killing time with a docu-drama version of “CSI: Macomb County.” ‘Cause it’s not like there’s a deeply complicated conflict in the Middle East that could use some esplainin’. I gave Rachel Maddow a shot. I may agree with her and Olbermann a fair amount of the time but they’re still ridiculous. Keith has become a caricature of himself. Baitz was too kind in calling him the love child of “Howard Beale and Hamlet.” More like Howard Beale and Gallagher. And Rachel’s basically a blogger with a TV/Radio show. She points to people smarter than she and says, “See!” There’s a place for that, on the internet, not on a set that looks like leftovers from the World Poker Tour. But I shouldn’t be so hard on Rachel. Next to Chuck Todd, she’s the least offensive of the whole flea circus. Speaking of whom, I’m baffled Chuck still has a job considering he was the only pundit in all the land who dared point out the Democratic Primary was over and done with after Wisconsin. How’s they ‘sposed to sell penis pills if there’s no horse race? It’s the math, stupid. But really, whatever to all of this. Now that my Guy’s the Guy, I’ve got no reason to tune into this tripe. It’s a waste of effort that could be spent listening to paint dry. Really, all you need to know is that CNN shit canned Chez for no good reason. So, you know, fuck them. — Beckyloo

Fifteen Minute Fame Whores: Since the heralding of the CRapture thanks to reality programming, celebrity has become achievable like microwaveable White Castle burgers — instantaneous, undeserving of the moniker, and with no redeeming nutritive value whatsoever. Stars have been born with no pedigree or even redeeming social value. And for every Duff Goldman or Carrie Underwood — people who (opinions aside) demonstrate a legitimate talent or social skill — there are countless others who have emerged from beneath the grimy fridge of fame for no other reason than someone put a camera on them one time. I refer to your Heidi and Spencer Montags, your Kardashian Klan, your Hogan children. Clara Peller famously said, “Where’s The Beef?” in a Wendy’s commercial to the amusement of countless churchgoing folk. Today, she’d have her own television special, record album featuring T.I. and Fall Out Boy, and would be guest hosting at the Emmys. Hulk Hogan at least was a professional wrestler at one time, but his children have done nothing other than lower the limbo bar beneath even Barbado Slim or Hermes Conrad’s flexible spine. These people are put in print to feed the constant slurp and slobber of the gossip rags. They are bread and butter and often sole sustenance for the slavering hordes of TMZ and Perez Hilton (and okay, maybe our own dear Stacey.) Like the advertising monoliths that laid waste to Springfield on “The Simpsons,” they exist only because we pay attention to them. Ignore them. Ignore magazines that promote them. Stop supporting blogs that write articles about them. And they’ll shrivel and die like the cockroaches they truly are. — Brian Prisco

The Jonas Brothers: 2008 was the year that Disney tweener pop inexplicably made its way into mainstream music. Last February when I reviewed the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Tour concert movie, I had only the foggiest knowledge of either Miss Cyrus or The Jonas Brothers going into it. And while The Jonas Brothers, particularly, were rather odious on the senses; I didn’t find anything too contemptible about their Osmond-wannabe asses so long as they stayed in their corner of the world and me, in mine. Within months however, they had taken the nation by storm, going on to perform at every conceivable televised venue from the VMAs to major football halftime shows. For what’s it’s even worth anymore, they even graced the cover of Rolling Stone for chrissakes. How did this happen, people? Are 12-year-old girls really such a commandingly ominous force to be reckoned with that we have to accept this into pop culture? God, let me tell you, I cannot wait for the day that one of them is caught with some blow or a male prostitute (or better yet, blow and a male prostitute) so we can tell them to shove those promise rings and skinny ties up their self-righteous, sanctimonious buttholes, send them packing to wherever they came from, and forget about them until VH1 does one of their “Hey, Whatever Happened To These Guys” specials in ten years. - Stacey Nosek

Privacy Is a Shield, Not a Sword, Asshole: There’s certainly no historical shortage of cynical politicians attempting to conceal the ugly blemishes on their intellects by hiding behind claims of “privacy.” Over the years, Dick Cheney and his henchman/wife repeatedly attacked those who questioned how he could support denying civil rights to millions of gay Americans while at the same time claiming to love his lesbian daughter “unconditionally.” (Apparently “outlawing marriage to her lover” is not a “condition.”) 2008 brought a new low, however, in the form of (A) a vice presidential candidate espousing abstinence-only sex education while her daughter behaved like a horny Labrador retriever at a dog show and (B) a presidential candidate who insisted that his crackpot religion had nothing to do with whether he should be trusted with the nuclear launch codes. In response to questions about her teenager’s inability to color inside the lines of the abstinence prayer circle, Sarah Palin insisted that her candidacy didn’t open her family’s personal lives to scrutiny, despite the U.S. government’s control over billions of dollars in family planning funding and education resources. Earlier in the year, Mitt Romney repeatedly deflected inquiries about his Mormon beliefs — e.g., that in 1830 God sent an angel to start the Mormon Church with a message on gold plates buried in the fucking ground — because “the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office” and that his religion is a matter of private conscience. Nice try, fuckwits. There’s regular ho-hum bullshit, and then there’s stank-ass bullshit, and this is such an easy call that I can’t believe there’s any serious debate. These people are asking us for a very precious gift: the privilege of governing us. When a person seeks to gain this substantial control over our lives, we have the right to know any significant fact about that person that might show he or she is a nutbag or a fuck-up. There is an infinite distance between (1) insisting as a private citizen that people stay out of your personal life and (2) volunteering for a high-profile political position while trying to hide your boarding pass for the train to KrazyTown. If you can’t take the heat, don’t try to get voted into the kitchen. — Ted Boynton

Proposition 8: If Obama (re)made politics into a celebrity sport this past year, Proposition 8 made state constitutional amendments the darling of cultural blogging. Discussions about Prop 8 had a celebrity component that equaled its grassroots component; everyone and everything was attracted to its pull, which reached beyond state and even national borders and touched at matters much larger than the sum of its parts, including the mere question of marriage. It got Straight White Men (recognized by some as the only authoritative, reasonable creatures on earth), and in particular respected entertainment figures like Jon Stewart, taking the soapbox on behalf of all of us lesser-thans. It got mainstream media outlets practically normalizing gay sex. These were its positive effects. Its negative effects are what earn it a spot on this year’s Shit List, though, along with its supporters, the most visible of whom will share a historical greenroom with David Dukes and Jesse Helms (and there’s some consolation in that). Prop 8 left bruising footprints not just across the backs of the people it marginalized, but also across those who struggled to do the marginalizing; it caught thousands of ordinary folks in YouTube amber, their faces frozen in hate-snarls for future generations to wonder at. That it turned up the volume on the American civil rights debate is heartening; that it turned a spotlight on the bigotry lurking under the skins of our near relatives and neighbors — and that it passed, if only by the hair of nervous legacy — is not. Prop 8 (and its sister amendments nationwide) will eventually go the way of the Colored restroom, making it and all it stands for one of the shittiest emblems of this past year. — Ranylt Richildis

Twist Endings: One would assume that only the very best screenwriters’s names ever appear onscreen, but even these illuminati usually strike out when it comes to a successful twist ending. Hell, Keyser Soze wasn’t just a mythical and evasive character that no one was sure ever really existed but whose name, when spoken, still managed to terrify even the most hardened criminal. Beyond The Usual Suspects, Soze represents the equally elusive concept of an effective twist ending, which must be believable (yet not totally obvious) and speak to the main characters’ objectives. In other words, the twist ending, ideally, isn’t wholly predicable but is forged from within the realm of believable possibilities. Otherwise, a filmmaker will inevitably be compared to, say, M. Night Shyamalan, who managed to pull things off once with his well-received Sixth Sense, a suspense story with a twist ending that was somewhat predictable but also profound and dramatic. Then, dude started pulling film endings out of fortune cookies. In Signs, a preacher loses his faith and searches for life’s meaning but must contend with hostile aliens, who were stupid enough to invade a planet three-fourths covered with water, yet can easily be destroyed with glasses of water. Things got even lamer with The Village, which contained two such plot twists in a story of an Amish-like society whose founders vainly sought to escape the ills of society. Perhaps Shyamalan was looking for a second wind, but, his latest offering, The Happening dispensed with suspense in favor of the idiocy of a wind-borne toxin. Every “reveal” was unraveled by the film’s halfway point and the audience was left to observe two unsympathetic and impotent main characters who never consider staying inside to avoid the wind. Perhaps they were actually running away from a twist ending. — Agent Bedhead

Twitter: Part of hate is fear of the unknown, and maybe it’s just that I don’t really understand micro-blogging. I played the MySpace game for a while, until — like most folks — I abandoned it when the spam got completely out of control. And now, like almost everyone under 40, I’m on Facebook, which is great, until your family tries to befriend you, and then it’s not as fun trying to offend/shock all those people you went to high school with. Still, when you’re trying to avoid work or killing time at the end of the workday (or the beginning), there is a comfortable joy in reading about the banality of your friends’ lives or catching a few non-sequiturs in the status updates — it’s little nuggets of personality wrapped around a small bio, updated photos, and the occasionally amusing link. But I just can’t abide the idea that there are millions of people out there who “follow” other people’s Twitter feeds, or that anyone would really want to communicate with the world in 140 character text bites, essentially exchanging status updates. It’s not technophobia — I spend 12 hours of my day in front of a computer, and another 4 hours keeping tabs on the real world via mobile devices. And I understand, of course, that I’ll probably come down on the wrong side of history on this, but have we seriously gotten to the point where information has to be exchanged in bite-sized chunks of text-speak? Is this the future? Will television and movies soon be reduced to 17-second entertainments? Will our real lives soon take on the same format — will conversations be a series of out-of-context morsels of wit and facileness? It’s a terrifying prospect, and it’s a shame David Foster Wallace took his own life last year — now that’s a man that could’ve melted down the entire Twitter database in half an hour. And if he had, would we have lost anything? — Dustin Rowles

2008: I hated 2008. The whole thing just mostly sucked, you know? I understand that 2007 was a bumper year for movies, with genuine classics blasting out of the gate like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. And I understand that you can’t get that lucky all the time. But I didn’t expect 2008 to suck this much, I really didn’t. I can’t quite believe we’re already in 2009, and that 2008 has no more opportunities to artistically or culturally redeem itself. I couldn’t even bring myself to assemble a personal top 10 list of 2008 movies because I didn’t care deeply about 10 films last year. I loved a handful, liked a couple more, and wound up with maybe six or seven titles that mattered. The cinematic landscape was bleak, and there was no getting around it. My only consolation is the hope that these things move in cycles — please, for the love of all that is good and holy, tell me they move in cycles — and that something good is bound to come down the pike before long. I’m not tired of getting my hopes up, but I’m tired of having them let down. 2008, you sucked a hard one. Let’s refine in 09. — Daniel Carlson

Guides | January 12, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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