Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Puddles of Myself 2010 Year End Awards

Well, my Puddlers, the year of 2010 as we know it is coming to an end.  I’ve really enjoyed 2010 as a year.  I switched jobs, improved my life, enjoyed the summer and generally had a fantastic time overall.  This was a big year for the blog as far as I’m concerned.  The Puddles of My Podcast episodes were cranked out a fairly consistent rate and the response was positive.  We are going to be back with more podcasts in the next year.  I believe that the written content on the blog, not only from myself but from the guest columnists improved as the year went along.  Next year we will have some new regular guest columnists joining the fold as well as less frequent guest columnists. I am leaving the door open for anyone who wants to contribute, so please contact me about that if you are interested. I will start more more aggressive solicitations in the new year.  This year also saw the first ever Puddles of Myself Fiction reading.  I am hoping to put on a few more of these events next year as well so that we can bring the blog to the real world as well. 

This will be the last post of this year and during the next week or so, all of the content at the current PuddlesofMyself.blogspot address will be shifted over to an official address.  That is the first step in the next phase of this enterprise.  Later in the spring and summer, the site will be redesigned and we will be taking steps forward to incorporate more fiction onto the site, which was my original intent.  Over the past year, in the interest of  providing entertaining essays and posts to you readers (and my own enjoyment in writing them), I have continued to put my focus on the cultural ramblings, sports analysis, musical musings and human soul dissections.  All of those posts and columns have come to represent the general idea of “Puddles of Oneself,” which is writing with passion, humor and seriousness about the things that moves one to express themselves.  However, the largest “Puddle of Myself,” that of the fiction realm, has been largely left out of the loop.  We will be getting there, my Puddlers, so just stay with me as always.

Now, the end of the year usually brings awards, glances back at the year that was as well as a look ahed forward to the trends and awards that will be given in the upcoming year.  So, in my own twist on this little tradition, I have compiled my own list of awards that I believe fit the personalities, culture, current events and people that I know personally in the past year.  As usual, it is completely biased and probably doesn’t make a ton of sense. 

So, without further ado, here are the Puddles of Myself 2010 Year End Awards presented by Rookie Blue on ABC.

 The James Joyce Best Quote AwardLeBron James

There are some years where the winner for this award is just blatantly clear.  In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. ran away with this award for “I have a dream.”  In 1987, Regan nailed it with “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall!”  In 1998, Bill Clinton was a clear-cut winner with “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” And even last year, Animal Collective pulled away early with “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things, like a social status. I just want four walls with adobe slabs for my girls.”  This year, we had another rock-solid winner.  All sports fans were anticipating the summer of 2010 because of the impending LeBron free agency.  We imagined how crazy the media coverage would be; what the wooing processes for each city would be like; what the actual decision would be.  However, the reality ended up being much more absurd and ridiculous than anyone could have anticipated.  LeBron and the other free agents toured around different U.S. cities, holding meetings with the executives of each NBA franchise in an attempt to make a decision about where to play for the next six years of their NBA careers.  LeBron held meetings with Jay-Z and Mayor Bloomberg.  Marketing campaigns were unveiled.  However, no one could have imagined that LeBron would hold the city of Cleveland hostage by holding a one-hour special devoted to his decision.  It even sounds crazy only five months after the fact.  During LeBron’s Decision, James uttered the following words that broke every Cleveland sports fan’s heart, “This fall, I’ll be taking my talents to South Beach to join the Miami Heat.” The backlash against LeBron and the ridiculousness of the situation in general have led that phrase to be used in about a million satirical situations.  My favorite being as a veiled innuendo for masturbation.

The Rajon Rondo Annual Assist AwardNick Mencia

Keeping with a basketball and South Beach theme, this year, the Rajon Rondo Annual Assist Award goes to Nick Mencia.  This award has gone to anyone who has had a stellar recommendation regarding a book, album, movie, restaurant or anything else during a calendar year.  It can also go to the person who has helped the most people (you can make a score joke if you want to) in a given year.  So, past recipients have been: Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, Al Green, the movie Love Story, Jesus Christ, and Prince.  However, this year, my good friend Nick Mencia (now setting up his Mencia Gourmet business down in South Beach) receives the award for gifting me the novel The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. If you have never read any work by James Crumley, then I highly recommend it.  This novel is filled with all kinds of Vietnam, 1960’s west coast fallout, as well as a country vibe all thrown under the umbrella of potboiler, gumshoe fiction.  It also has perhaps the best dialogue that has ever been written in the history of the world.  With accolades like that, how could Nick Mencia not receive this award in 2010?

The Sal’s Pizzeria Reliability Award – Michael Cunningham

Sal’s Pizzeria on Lorimer Street in Williamsburg is the most reliable pizza place on the planet.  It’s not fancy schmancy or gourmet like Motorino or any other place that New York Magazine does a spread on at least 15 to 20 times per year (next most frequent New York magazine spread: best sandwich).  The pizza is always reliable, always flavorful and always feels like Friday night getting pizza with your family as a kid – that means something.  Michael Cunningham gets this award, because once again he produced another fine novel.  This year brought By Nightfall.  Cunningham never disappoints you, but he never completely dazzles you either—and he does sometimes go overboard on homosexuality as a theme (not homophobia speaking, simply opinion) as well as homoerotic moments and sex scenes (Chabon has been guilty of this as well).  Yet, he always brings home a rewarding and rich novel experience.  His novel Flesh and Blood, which came out in 1996, was a mesmerizing chronicle of one family over the many decades of their lives and even stretched into the future – somewhat predating Six Feet Under in scope and intensity.  By Nightfall is a solid novel about how we appreciate and find beauty in the world.  How sometimes beauty, a beauty that is similar to the aesthetic appreciation we find in a work of art, can be found in another human being; how that appreciation can be held between a man and his wife’s younger brother.  It is not an especially challenging novel, but it raises interesting themes and Cunningham is a master of perspective and character psychology and consciousness – his narrative always successfully matches his characters’ inner workings.  When I know I want pizza, I go to Sal’s.  When a new Michael Cunningham book comes out, I buy it (or get it for free as a promotional gift since I am now in the media), read it and enjoy it.

The Tony Castles Best Late Night Food Award – Grand Morelo’s Bakery

This award is pretty self-explanatory: Gabi Wurzel, the drummer for the Tony Castles is one of the biggest eaters I know and he is never averse to the late night snack.  Grand Morelo’s  actually won this award from 2000-2007. In 2008, it was upset by a new to the late night scene Manna. In 2009, the pizza craze swept the city and Anna Maria on Bedford avenue stole the award.  However, 2010 was a year of glory for Grand Morelo’s as it just had that late night voodoo that lured all kinds of hungry drunkards in through its well-lit front doors.  A burrito (or two) doused in green sauce from this place at three or four in the morning (with a beer and two glasses of water) will cure whatever ails you.

The Henry Jones Sr. Quest for the Holy Grail Award – Mark Jack

Speaking of curing whatever ails you, we now have the Henry Jones Sr. Quest for the Holy Grail Award.  Some fantastic thinkers have won this award in the past: Steve Jobs (2007), James Joyce (1922-1930), Ernest Hemingway (1932), Christopher Lloyd (1985)*, Larry Bird (1986), John Lennon (1968), Winston Churchill (1944), Bill Clinton (1996).  The title may be a bit confusing, but it really is given to a person with the greatest thirst for knowledge and the restlessness to achieve it, and it is that restlessness for knowledge which will always keep us young and adventurous.  For those of you that have read Mr. Mark Jack’s posts on Puddles of Myself the past few months, you obviously know that the man is restless and he will not stop walking until he figures out what it’s all about—sort of like a young Jesus Christ.  He even dissected the phenomenon of merely sitting on a bench. There may have been flashier or more charismatic thinkers out there in 2010, but none of them thought deeper or exhibited that depraved sense of restlessness better than our very own Mark Jack.

*The 1985 award was taken from Christopher Lloyd once it was pointed out that Doc Brown from Back to the Future was actually a fictional character.  The award was vacated and given to the default winner of all awards in 1985 – Bruce Springsteen.

The E Street Band Sweat and Showmanship Award - Vampire Weekend

With all of the popularity and praise that Vampire Weekend have received over the past three years, there have been equal doses of backlash and criticism.  The release of Contra this past year allowed people to either continue to praise the band or to deride them because of their clean or preppy appearance.  However, in September, Vampire Weekend sold out three straight nights at Radio City Music Hall and those performances were some of the most charismatic in recent years.  The crowd that shows up is what one has to imagine a Beatles crowd was like in the early 60’s.  There are thousands of screaming teenage girls who play ringtones and mp3s of the songs on their phones before, during and after the concert. Ezra Koenig is the smirking, sarcastic and witty John Lennon and Chris Tomson is the grinning Paul McCartney (on drums, not bass) that keeps the machine moving at a frenetic but always charming pace.  There is no other band that you could say this about today – period.

Bonus Prediction for 2011 Award WinnerElton John.  Listen to Honky Château and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and tell me someone won’t be copping all that wah wah guitar, keyboard and piano at some point in the next year.

The Hank Kingsley Excellence in Arrogance Award – Kanye West

No one did arrogance and humility like Hank Kingsley and, currently, no one does it like Kanye West.  Kanye has killed it with his arrogance in years past (2006), however this year was his masterpiece thus far.  He had his breakdown on the Today show with Matt Lauer.  There were the apologies to Taylor Swift and George W. Bush.  Then there was the strange, symbolic “Power” artwork and later the sprawling 40-minute “Runaway” video.  You also can’t forget about his random performance on a Delta flight.  Even as of a month ago, Kanye put on a strange performance on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade where he wore a large gold chain and a throwback 80’s Michael Jackson/Eddie Murphy red, chest-exposing, jump suit while kids rode on the float with him.  He also released his sprawling and epic album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that featured several different options of cover art.  If there is one man who takes himself too seriously, who wears his heart on his sleeve and who is so fragile that we can expect him to fall apart at any moment just like Hank Kingsley, then it is Kanye West.

The Peggy Olsen Upstart of the Year AwardDas Racist

There has been buzz about these guys for the past two years, but this is the year that they really broke through.  I don’t really know them that well personally (although friends of mine do), nor do I even really like or listen to their music that much.  From what I have heard, it’s funny, somewhat clever and slightly enjoyable.  However, I have to commend young guys like this making their way into the press and attention of the music world whenever I get a chance.  So, this year the award goes to Das Racist. If they actually become big, they seem like they will be due for one of those sprawling messes of an album that I will probably learn to love, so they have that going for them.  Like Peggy Olsen, hopefully they also learn what the money is for.

The Fleetwood Mac Memorial Artist Rediscovery AwardBruce Springsteen

Each year, there is an artist from the past who most people either overlooked or wrote off as too commercial or too over exposed that makes a dramatic comeback among the “hipper” sets.  In 2009 that band was Fleetwood Mac.  For about 7 or 8 years before that it was constantly Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.  This past year, it was Bruce Springsteen.  The Boss’ comeback with the youth had been gaining steam over the past few years, but a cover of “I’m Going Down” by Vampire Weekend, the release of the expanded Darkness on the Edge of Town box set and the repeated admission of hipsters that The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle was a good album truly signaled that he was the Rediscovered Artist of 2010.  I’ve already written about my own newfound appreciation for the Boss, so I won’t go completely in depth. He can certainly be annoying at times (just like Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys can in their own ways), but there is a certain merit to albums and songs like “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Rosalita,” and “Dancing in the Dark” that you simply can’t deny.

The Abbey Road Album of the Year AwardThe Walkmen, Lisbon

If you read My Top 10 Albums of the Year post then you already knew that this was my favorite album of 2010.  You can also read my actual review of the album to further understand why.  However, the Walkmen are the closest that we have had to a real working band in a long time (Wilco is the only other band that truly rivals them in that sort of American touring band spirit that the Stones actually originated in the 70's. Weird how a British band could start that image.).  It still remains baffling why the National even get any attention while the Walkmen are making music. The National are basically a bankrupt man’s Walkmen.  Every time these guys release an album they seem to figure out the core of their sound just a little more.  They don’t simplify or distill that original murkiness and uneasiness, they allow it to evolve.  So, where stark keyboards and organs were once the most prominent sounds in the mix, now there are horn flourishes.  Where the guitar lines were once extremely cavernous, now they are fluid and becoming warmer and warmer with each album.  Again, for me, Lisbon is an album that represents a place that I want to get to  – it is a place that I am working to get to.  A place where I can allow that perhaps I am a good person despite all my flaws and where all of the simple things I enjoy are OK, because I have gotten to know how to enjoy those things because I have lived my life in my own way.  Any time an album makes you feel that way – allowing the last virtues of your immaturity to slightly slip away while trying to grasp onto what adulthood and acceptance is – then you have to give it the Abbey Road Album of the Year Award.

The Don Draper Award for Excellence in AdvertistingGeico Insurance

When a company has three irritating and insistent ad campaigns running simultaneously (Gecko, Private Eye Question Guy, Cavemen residue), you know that they have a great ad agency.  Maybe Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce can land Geico next season and save the firm that way.

The Doctor Doolittle Philotherian AwardKevin Arkell

In 2011, one of the first guests I hope to have on Puddles of My Podcast is my great friend Kevin Arkell so that we can discuss the Indiana Jones quadrilogy. At this point, some of you readers may know him, but many of you may not.  Either way, this man and his fiancée just bought two black cats this past year named Charles and Celia.  I have seen people love dogs, lizards, birds, cats and fish in the past, but nothing compares to how much this man loves these two black cats.  He gave them dignified French aristocrat names like Charles and Celia and he even taught them how to actually be funny.  Ask Kevin Arkell about cat videos or pictures at any time and you are sure to get an education in love.

The Michael Jordan Memorial Moustache AwardJimmy McMillan

This award is given in honor of the inexplicable fact that Michael Jordan sported a Hitler moustache in a Hanes commercial this year.  Obviously, there is only one person that this award could go to in 2010 and that was to Jimmy “The Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan.  Now that this year and this past election are over, thankfully we can say goodbye to this man who will undoubtedly be a cultural reference in “I Love the Teens” (Not a pedophilic website, TV show or movie. Just a spoof on the “I Love the…” TV shows.).

The True Lies Award – The San Francisco Giants

One of the worst teams of all-time won the least watched World Series of all-time.  Enough said.

The Michael Phelps Memorial AwardLindsey Vonn

In an era when our Olympic heroes need to be larger than life and win a record number of gold medals every time they compete, Lindsey Vonn tried to reach the heights of Michael Phelps, but she came up short.  She competed in five events with a shin injury and won a gold and a bronze medal in two of them, which isn’t terrible.  However, where Lindsey Vonn excelled was in being a sexy Olympic hero.  Who could forget her blonde hair and her somewhat cat like looks? What about the media frenzy that surrounded her and the photos of her in a swimsuit right before the Olympics?  She had all men in their 20’s saying the ultimate catchphrases of early 2010, such as “I’ll make her my Lindsey Vonn,” “That Lindsey Vonn is one piece of ace,” “I Vonnt that,” or “Lemme get some Vonn.”  She had all men worked up in a frenzy, which made the 2010 Winter Olympics the most watched Winter Olympics of all time (not an accurate fact).  Not only that, but she provided Puddles of Myself with some of its funniest and most misleading headlines to post up on Facebook in order to get people to click on the link and look at the site.  Lindsey Vonn is an American hero!

The Larry Sanders No Flipping AwardLeBron James Returns to Cleveland

Immediately after LeBron spurned Cleveland in July and after the NBA schedule came out in August, everyone circled their calendar for December 2, which would be LeBron’s first game back in Cleveland against his former team (also Erik Lilleby’s birthday).  As the day approached, the hype built and you began to think that there was no way that the actual event could ever live up to the hype.  Well it did…sort of.  LeBron’s entrance as well as the Miami Heat introductions were like nothing I have ever seen at a sport event in my life.  The volume and anger of the crowd was unprecedented. During the first and second quarters, the crowd’s chants were so vehemently directed at LeBron that it was even worse than Reggie Miller at the Garden during the 90’s.  When a crowd’s volume comes through the TV at a basketball game, you know it is extraordinarily loud in person.  However, it wasn’t until LeBron went to the line and took his first two free throws that you could actually comprehend the volume.  LeBron was on an island for a moment and the crowd could just completely focus on him as he stood at the free throw line.  And LeBron proceeded to swish both free throws in the face of the crowd.  After that, well, things sort of went downhill for the Cavs as LeBron had his way and all Cleveland fans realized that things were really just going to be sad from December 2, 2010 on.  All of this of course made it MUST SEE TV!

 The Godfather II Best Movie to Watch on Cable AwardThe Devil Wears Prada

I know that many of you who know me will be shocked by this pick.  “What about the Indiana Jones quadrilogy movies, Domino?”  “What about You Me and Dupree, Domino?” “No Back to the Future trilogy love?”  All of those things crossed my mind at some point in the past five minutes before I started writing this.  But then I started thinking about what movie was there all year for me on cable.  In the bitter cold of January and February, what movie was playing in that post-work 7:00 PM-9:00 PM slot?  In early spring when life was beginning again and you gently coaxed your hangover away on Saturday afternoons at 1:00 PM, what movie was playing that helped you want to get out on the streets?  When summer was blazing and you had to point two fans at you while you ate dinner and drank beer until midnight, what movie finished up tidily at 12:00?  And what movie was still being played on cable even as recent as two weeks ago?  Well the answer was The Devil Wears Prada.  It’s actually a solid movie and not a total chick flick, and it leaves you with an easy open door to switch to a game that is on at the same time, as well as give you the perfect opportunity to give up on watching it at any sitting.  It also contains the number one virtue of watching a movie on cable—the commercial breaks actually enhance the viewing experience. Above anything else, it has Anne Hathaway.  And God damnit, I love Anne Hathaway.  She is my total dream babe as of this moment.  So what if I work for Conde Nast Magazines and this is drinking the corporate Kool-Aid a little bit?  This movie can win the Godfather II Best Movie to Watch on Cable Award in 2010.

The Tessa Mencia Discerning Taste in the Novel Arena Award – Nicole Krauss, Great House

My friend, Tessa Mencia, has pretty great and discerning taste in everything: clothes, food, people, atmosphere, and books.  I don’t know if she has actually read this book, but I enjoyed this book that I am giving it this award.  If you are someone with highly discerning taste in modern novels, then you can open the doors and let this book in.  Nicole Krauss is a great writer.  Her last novel, The History of Love, was a well-written book with a nice little story.  For me, it was a surprise to read in college while I was busy studying tomes of literature in class.  Great House on the other hand is a fantastic novel.  There are passages of tremendous beauty, tenderness and sadness.  The different threads of the novel are all connected by a piece of furniture that finds its way to different owners.  The stories behind all the owners of the furniture and the people that know them are fantastic.  All of a sudden you will find yourself engrossed in the book.  You will think of how much you know the people in your life and how much you share with them.  How much you have been able to give love and accept love.  It is a truly fantastic new novel.

World’s Coolest Dude 2010 – Louis CK

The World’s Coolest Dude Award has become a bit of an inside joke among my friends.  I gave the award to myself in 2007 and to my good friend Mike Antonio in 2006. Obama won the award in 2008 and my good friend Nick Kozmin won the award in 2009.  So that makes three out of the last four winners Skidmore alumni.  I always wanted to create a list of all the World’s Coolest Dude winners over the past fifty years so that people could see the history.  However, I’ll give you World’s Coolest Dude winners from 2000 going forward:

2000 – Bill Clinton

2001 – Rudy Giuliani

2002 – Julian Casablancas

2003 – Andre 3000

2004 – LeBron James

2005 – Kanye West

2006 – Mike Antonio (barely edging Dwyane Wade)

2007 – Matt Domino

2008 – Barack Obama

2009 – Nick Kozmin

2010 – Louis CK

*The award is obviously only awarded to Americans

If you are a fan of comedy or even just of human nature, then 2010 had to be the year of Louis CK.  His new comedy special Hilarious killed it just as much as his last special Chewed Up did.  His TV show Louie, featured some of the best stand-up bits mixed with some of the most poignant and humanistic television that has ever aired on TV.  Louis CK is an expert for taking a human interaction (between father and daughter, husband and wife) and looking at it from such a removed and objective perspective and then commenting on it so that the most precious things that we hold sacred become ridiculous and absurd, which makes us ask ourselves why we hold them so sacred without really thinking about them and that in turns makes us relearn those interactions and appreciate them even more.  Although, Louie can very often be depressing as a TV show, it is never cynical or pessimistic, it always leaves you cherishing life even if it can be completely terrible.  And I look to my World’s Coolest Dudes to do that year in and year out.

The Annual Don Draper AwardMatt Domino

Because really, “Who is Matt Domino?”


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