So as the year winds down, let’s put our differences aside and take a look at the things we’ve declared to be in and out in the categories of News and Politics, Entertainment, Sports and Life in the USA. Then afterwards, we’ll hug.
Sure, times are tough, and everybody is angry at the government, corporate America, the entertainment industry and each other. But is that any excuse for not keeping up with what’s in and out in politics, the arts, culture and life in general? Of course not.
So as the year winds down, let’s put our differences aside and take a look at the things we’ve declared to be in and out. Then, afterwards, we’ll hug.
News and politics
1) Sarah Palin and the tea party. Ah, Sarah Palin … Is there anything she can’t do? She survives encounters with grizzly bears on her reality show. Her daughter gets to the finals of “Dancing With The Stars.” She makes up words, and we add them into the dictionary. So what if she doesn’t know the difference between North and South Korea, wants to stifle the press and, if elected president, would probably sign a law making it legal to club liberals to death like baby seals? She’s got moxie, baby!
She’s also got major cred with the tea party movement, which hates profligate government spending, except for the eight years when George Bush was doing it. They’re going to take the country back from President Obama, who somehow snuck into the White House despite being the world’s first Kenyan-born socialist, fascist, Marxist –– whatever any of those words mean.
As for Sen. Scott Brown … He’s not only in, he’s dreamy. There, I said it.
2) Leaking. It seems only appropriate that in an age where we regurgitate every once-private fact and facet (and photo) about our lives via our phones and computers, someone should be out there doing the same thing for the government. Sure, eventually WikiLeaks will probably release something that will threaten our national security. But it’s worth it to know, for example, that our diplomatic corps think that Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.” If that involves green briefs and a yellow-laced red bodice, count me in!
3) Patting and probing. Along the same lines, given the number of people broadcasting pictures of their personal, er, information via their cell phone cameras, it’s probably not surprising that most people are perfectly willing to submit to full-body scans in order to get on a plane. We’re a little nervous about the people who choose the “enhanced pat-down” option, though; particularly the ones who tip the TSA agent afterwards. Being a TSA agent is in.
4) Marriage. Marriage is in among people of all stripes and sexes, and it’s only a matter of time before any two people who love each other, in any state, can become legally bound for life. Or at least until they get tired of each other, at which time they’ll all have equal opportunity to pay attorneys exorbitant amounts of money to sort out who gets the furniture. Attorneys are in.
5) Ash. As in volcanic ash, which made big headlines when it grounded planes all over the world, forcing people to spend days stuck in airports, getting extra pat-downs. The good thing about the ash that erupted from the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier (or as Sarah Palin pronounces it, Eyjamacallit) is that we’re pretty sure it’s not our fault, unlike everything else up there destroying the environment and warming the planet. Not that that’s stopped Al Gore from going on the road with his “Inconvenient Volcano” PowerPoint presentation. Al Gore is out.
1) Hope. Also change. President Obama has had two whole years to reform government, get everybody jobs and health care and turn Washington into a bipartisan utopia where politicians as diametrically opposed as Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner can work together and, eventually, kiss passionately. The fact that he hasn’t is the fault of the Republicans, who have blocked the president at every turn by glaring icily at him, at which point he considers giving them a stern talking-to, and then immediately caves in. Caving in is in.
Democrats are out — out of style, out of office and generally out of sorts. Take New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, who’s looked a little queasy ever since being “censured” by Congress for ethics violations. Luckily, all that money he saved not paying taxes on his rental property in the Dominican Republic can buy a lot of Pepto-Bismol.
2) Working. More and more people are opting not to work –– “opting” meaning getting laid off, searching unsuccessfully for another job for 16 or 18 months and then collapsing from exhaustion. But the government will probably keep extending unemployment benefits, as long as the Republicans in Congress can verify that no one is abusing the system by actually using them.
3) War. Well, war itself isn’t out per se — we’re in at least two of them right now, I think — but talking about them certainly is. Not a single candidate made our armed conflicts an issue in the midterm elections. That’s probably because everyone is in universal agreement about the importance of our mission in Afghanistan, whatever that is.
The troops are, of course, still in, even the ones that are out — of the closet, that is –– now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” has finally been repealed. Now gay people can be just as open about it in the military as they are in other careers, like musical theater or construction.
4) Oil. It costs a fortune, it imbues our Middle Eastern adversaries (and even our allies) with unfair leverage and, when it spills, it gets all over our turtles. We might finally be at the point when we realize that oil is just not worth it and start coming up with alternative sources of energy, just as soon as someone perfects an invisible wind turbine. Having to look at wind turbines from your yacht is still out.
5) Taxes. OK, when is everybody going to get this straight: The less money rich people pay in taxes, the fewer poor people there are. It’s a scientific fact, or something. So leave the rich people alone with their tax cuts and get back to looking for a job already.
Incidentally, despite coming this closeto wrecking the entire world economy and plunging society into a global depression, rich people are still in. We’re still not quite sure how they pulled it off.
1) Zombies vs. vampires. Forget about team Edward vs. team Jacob. “Twilight” might still be in among a certain segment of the population (the segment who won’t date any boy who doesn’t “sparkle”), but these days it’s all team vampire vs. team zombie. Both undead types have taken over TV, with “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Walking Dead” tearing up the screen, often literally. Meanwhile, werewolves are out — just ask Benicio Del Toro.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that vampires and zombies are the only game in town. Superheroes are more in than ever, with “Iron Man 2” leading the way for movies, starring Captain America, Thor and eventually The Avengers. If they ever get around to Rom: Spaceknight, you know we’re in trouble. (And, if you know who Rom: Spaceknight is, you’re as much of a nerd as I am.)
Pixar remains in thanks to “Toy Story 3,” and Harry Potter will be bowing out when the last movie turns up next summer. Movies that are too cool to be understood are also in, judging by flicks like “Inception” and “Shutter Island.” Leonardo DiCaprio is also apparently too cool to be understood, but he’s still in.
2) Pop music. Taylor Swift has taken over the world, but she’s not alone. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are giving her a run for her money and might get the edge by wearing meat and flashing Elmo, respectively. Flashing Elmo is in. You know who you are.
Justin Bieber is in as the immensely popular source of derision among hipsters. Personally, I think he’s pretty cool, at least until his inevitable press conference when he peels off his face and reveals himself to be a fire-breathing, soul-stealing demon from the depths of Hell. Soul stealing is in.
3) TV with a brain. What is it with all these shows that don’t insult your intelligence? Programs like “Mad Men,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Recreation” and “The Big Bang Theory” are giving the entire mindless medium a bad name. Luckily, we still have “Two and a Half Men,” which more than fulfills our quota of smarmy, obvious sex jokes told by losers. Speaking of which, women inexplicably continue to come within 100 yards of Charlie Sheen, which must mean he’s still in. (No, not in prison.)
The smartest, funniest character on TV is, of course, Conan O’Brien, who might not be on NBC anymore but is all the more in because of it. Thanks to Conan, TBS is also in. George Lopez? Maybe next year.
4) Book series. Call it the Potter effect: One book is simply not enough anymore. These days “To Kill a Mockingbird” would just be the first book of a seven-part series in which Scout and Boo Radley outwit rednecks.
Harry and friends have gone off to that big publishing house in the sky, but dozens of other series have popped up to take their place. For example, “The Hunger Games” trilogy, in which futuristic teens must battle each other to the death. It’s sort of like a post-apocalyptic “Henry and Beezus.” (Henry and Beezus are out, but Ramona and Beezus are in, thanks to the Selena Gomez movie adaptation. Selena Gomez is in, somehow.)
For younger kids, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (up to book five and counting) has paved the way for dozens of other books that mix prose and cartoons. For grown-ups, the creepy and violent “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series is in, even though it doesn’t have any cartoons, thank God.
5) Game time. No, not board games — not only are they out, but no one has even seen one since the early ’90s. Those board game displays you see at Toys R Us are actually just the false front of the entrance to the secret underground employees-only paintball field.
No. I, of course, meant video games, such as “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” which certain people have been playing nonstop since its release, taking only short breaks to eat, sleep and twitch uncontrollably. But not every game is a high-def graphics extravaganza. Smart phone users of all ages are hooked on “Angry Birds,” our latest excuse for never actually having to look up. Looking up is out.
1) 3-D. When 3-D is good, like in “Toy Story 3” or “Despicable Me,” it’s neat, or at least not distracting. When 3-D is bad, like in “Clash of the Titans,” it’s like you’ve just paid 15 bucks to spend two hours in a giant migraine machine. And when the 3-D and the movie are both bad, like in “The Last Airbender,” you might find yourself overtaken by an uncontrollable desire to go to Hollywood and pummel the producer with a paddleball.
Thankfully, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” eschewed 3-D, but Part II will apparently use it –– better be prepared to get poked in the eye by a wand. Poking is in.
2) Pop music. Wait, did I say pop music is in? I wasn’t taking into account Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) or the Jonas Brothers, who seem destined to be lifetime residents of the Disney ghetto, sharing a room with those squirrelly boys who play Zack and Cody for all eternity, like a tween Sartre play.
And poor Christina Aguilera flopped both with her comeback album “Bionic” and her movie “Burlesque” with Cher. Could Cher finally be … out? Naaaaaaaaah.
3) Stupid TV. So “30 Rock” is too smart for your taste? There’s always its time-slot competitor “$#*! My Dad Says,” which is worth hating simply because it was based on a Twitter feed, and nobody has approached you about making a TV show out of your Twitter feed. But the jokes are another good reason; this is the bad William Shatner, the one from “Kingdom of the Spiders.”
But most of the stupid people on TV are, sadly, real. Kate Gosselin, David Hasselhoff and a certain former vice presidential candidate fond of skinning caribou are all giving reality shows a bad name, which is not easy to do. And poor Jay Leno and his obvious humor are finally out, even if he’s back in his old time slot.
3) Talk show hosts. Oprah is still on her way out, though, as we all know, she’s really on her way up, to a giant plush couch in the sky where she will be crowned queen of the universe. Larry King will probably not have the same fate. He’ll likely just kick back and spend some quality time doing things like attending his kids’ Little League games, where he can tell the other parents about the time he asked Ty Cobb whether it was true that he invented the Cobb salad.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are in but not as talk show hosts. As the only people reporting the news of the day in a format that provides actual facts and context, they’re the in newsmen. All the other newsmen are out. Sorry, Katie Couric.
5) Youngsters. Miley might be tanking, but 61-year-old Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise” box set is selling like hotcakes. Rod Stewart, 65, has now gone platinum with every song written between 1940 and 1955. Our biggest movie stars are Johnny Depp, 47, Robert Downey, Jr., 45, and Leonardo DiCaprio, the baby at 36. Meanwhile Sylvester Stallone, 64, and his aging cronies had one of the biggest hits of the summer with “The Expendables.”
The comedy world is mourning Leslie Nielsen, who passed away at 84, and who could be more in than Betty White, still baking her muffins at 88?
The exception is anyone who’s the progeny of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. The Smiths are in.
1) Shaq. Have Boston and a slightly faded superstar ever embraced each other so enthusiastically? (Ben Affleck doesn’t count; he was born here.) Shaq has played for such teams as the Miami Heat, the — gag! — L.A. Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But now he’s a Celtic, and it seems this is what Shaq was always supposed to be. Well, besides being a Comcast spokesman with the guy who said, “Bueller?”
2) Theo. Last year, it looked like Theo Epstein had gone off the rails, declaring the upcoming season a “bridge year” and signing an odd mélange of players who didn’t exactly have people running to buy the new jerseys. But this year, with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez wrapped up, he’s back to being the (36-year-old) boy genius. Unless, of course, the Sox don’t win the World Series next season — come on, it’s been four years, we’re getting antsy!
3) No-hitters. Is it us, or have these gotten easier? Maybe all those steroids wearing off have left the batters atrophied or partially blind or brain-addled. (Or all three.) Steroids are out.
Umpires, too, are in, except for the ones who blew calls over and over again in 2010, including the one who denied Armando Galarraga his perfect game. What? That was all of them? OK, then: They’re ouuuuuuut!
4) Taking your shirt off and painting yourself your team colors. This never gets old.
5) Soccer. In the wake of the World Cup drama, this was the year soccer finally captured the hearts and minds of the American sports-viewing public, taking its place beside football and baseball as one of the most engrossing, captivating … Oh, who am I kidding? Soccer is still out. But vuvuzelas are in!
1) LeBron. Shaq is on top of the world, but the other big-name sports move hasn’t worked out quite as well. We’re talking to you, King James. LeBron’s “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” TV special was an unprecedented, self-made public relations disaster. The only thing that could have made it worse is if he ended it by opening Al Capone’s vault.
2) Upstanding all-American quarterbacks. Whether they’re serving probation for dog fighting (Michael Vick), on suspension for alleged sexual assault (Ben Roethlisberger) or texting their junk to anyone and everyone (Brett Favre, and presumably almost everybody else in the NFL), quarterbacks are not looking good right now. Except for Tom Brady, of course, who is still a great American role model and Ugg spokesman, not necessarily in that order.
3) Red Sox “new” faces. Ah, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, we hardly knew ye. They became welcome fixtures after the Red Sox suffered more injuries than the cast of the Spider-Man musical, but as Theo puts together his newest would-be championship squad, they’ve been sent out of town. Sad but necessary, since being out of the playoffs — or not getting into them in the first place — is definitely out. (The Spider-Man musical: also out.)
4) Randy Moss. If there’s any major sports figure who had a greater “My God, what have I done?” moment than LeBron, it’s poor Randy, who at last blush was playing for … wait, let me check … ah, right, the Tennessee Titans. Maybe he’ll come back to the Patriots some day, if he ever starts catching balls again. Naaaaaaaaah.
5) Golf. That’s right, Tiger Woods didn’t just ruin his marriage, he took an entire sport with him. Men can’t even play the Tiger Woods video games anymore without getting glares from their wives and girlfriends. Maybe Tiger should try a new endeavor … I’m thinking NFL quarterback.
Life in the USA
The iPad. Actually, these tablet computers are sort of in andout. They’re in because people have scooped them up by the millions, and they might revolutionize the way we interact with the Web. They’re out because I don’t have one, and saying that over and over again is the only way I can keep from crying myself to sleep each night.
Smart phones are also in because using a phone just to talk to somebody is what the cavemen did right before bludgeoning the guy in the next cave with a giant stick. Just ask your 11-year-old.
2) Social media. Remember when that caveman bludgeoned that guy? Then he went out and socialized face-to-face with other human beings rather than interfacing with them via a social media platform. Cavemen are out, and so are other human beings.
Facebook is in, though — even movies about Facebook are in. But aren’t you glad you aren’t Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, now that you know that for all his billions, he’s kind of lonely? No, me either.
3) Cheap eats. As the economy slowly trickles back into a reasonable state of healthiness (reasonable states of healthiness are in, as long as the co-pay isn’t too high), people are still cutting back where they can. So even if they’re not doing fast food, because Happy Meals are evil (EEEEEVILLLLL!), people are at least sticking with food that moves at a fairly brisk pace and may come with a baguette.
Except for rich people, who are reportedly spending the entirety of their tax cut on foie gras.
4) Jeans that aren’t actually jeans. Denim has served us well for a good 150 years, so why we have to go messing with it now is beyond me. (The last thing we need is a repeat of the great acid wash debacle of 1983.) But, for some reason, jeggings are in, even though we’re pretty sure these jean-leggings actually prevent the blood from ever getting to your feet. Expect women to start tipping over any minute now.
More our speed are PajamaJeans, which are … wait, let me check my notes … Pajamas that look exactly like jeans! Meaning that, from now on, whenever we wear our pajamas in public, fewer people will know.
5) Reading. Reading is back, baby! As long as you do it on a Kindle or an iPad or in little bursts on your phone while you’re waiting for the bus. Actual paper books are out, except to put under the leg of a crooked table. Try doing that with your Kindle and you’ll be out $139.
1) Laptops and iPods. Now that everybody except me has an iPad, carrying around that tremendous, leg-crushing laptop seems downright quaint. As for that PC on your desk, this is the equivalent of the IBM computer that used to take up an entire room and required a team of engineers just to remove the other team of engineers who got trapped inside it looking for a missing punch card.
As for iPods, the ones that just hold music are completely useless since your phone can do that now. However, the iPod Touch is in because you can touch it. Touching is in. (Not you, Brett Favre.)
2) MySpace. If anyone remembers what this was, please message me on Facebook and let me know.
3) Demonizing pot. Now that marijuana is only sorta, kinda illegal, everyone is embarrassed about all those years spent referring to it as evil (EEEEEVILLLLL!) — not as evil as Happy Meals but still bad. Now, we realize our energies should be devoted elsewhere, like keeping kids from texting while driving, which is very much out. Texting while smoking pot will forever be in, though.
4) Baggy clothes. This is bad news for those of us who haven’t given up Happy Meals. We know who we are. These include the infamously shapeless “mom jeans.” Although, if that means Mom will be wearing jeggings from now on, we’re skipping Mother’s Day brunch this year.
5) Passing judgment. Yes, times are hard. But that just means it’s especially important we all stick together and avoid name-calling, jumping to conclusions and engaging in divisive activities. You know, such as arbitrarily declaring what’s in and what’s out.
This year’s What’s In and Out was written by Peter Chianca and researched by North Shore Sunday (Mass.) writers Christopher Hurley, Anne Kasper, Dan Mac Alpine, Kris Olson, Nick Pizzolato, Nancy Prag and Sam Trapani, with some additional writing by Dan Mac Alpine.
Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. Twitter is still in. Reach him at email@example.com.