Friday, December 21, 2012

The Puddles of Myself 2012 Year End Awards

 Matt Domino gives out his year end awards.

We have come to the end of another year, my Puddlers. I feel privileged to be here with you all at the end of 2012—presuming we are all going to survive through this entire day. Its fairly redundant in the immediate wake of Newton to say that we’ve ridden quite a few ups and downs this year, but we have. I moved apartments, changed jobs, went on bad dates, got screwed over by a horse, played some decent pick-up games, had a fantastic 27th birthday party at Building on Bond, discovered great new albums, read more than a handful of good new books, celebrated Hemingway, played rounds of this great game, found joy in Cheers, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, early David Letterman interviews and some other stuff about the 80’s. I once again found my existential being firmly located in the center of whatever Mad Men is about.

I’ll be sad to see 2012 go, but not sadder than any other year. I’m looking forward to 2013. I have a good feeling we're going to make it through the Mayan prediction and, hell, the NBA season is looking fine. Plus, who’s going to win the Oscars and the Super Bowl and when does Great Gatsby finally come out? I’m looking forward to 2013 because I just want to see what happens.

However, before we end 2012, it’s time to give out awards to some of the stand out things of the year! As you may remember from 2010, this award ceremony tends to be fairly free-associative (SHOCKING!) and then ends with the crowning of the year’s World’s Coolest Dude. Many of the award names have remained the same, some have changed and some new ones have been added because, well, to quote Penny Lane, “It’s all happening!”

So, now, without further ado, here are the 2012 Puddles of Myself Year-End Awards!

James Joyce Best Quote Award — Stephen Jackson

“I never met a dollar that could change me. Been the same guy since day one. I do what I do. I drink like I want to. I do what I want to.”

Let’s face it: NBA players are the most quotable professional athletes and human beings on the planet. Sure, maybe years ago a hard-drinking baseball player or manager (read: Billy Martin) used to give us a good sound byte; and yes, Randy Moss “had us at hello” when he said, “Straight cash, homey!” but overall, the modern era of quotes belongs to NBA players or perhaps Barack Obama—or Junot Diaz when he’s talking about getting laid.

Stephen Jackson swooped in earlier this month and stole this award right out of Mitt Romney’s bumbling hands (“BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN!”) and went running with it. In an interview Jackson gave to ESPN’s Chris Palmer, Jackson spoke about rap music, the Malice at the Palace, Ron Artest, the 2006-2007 Warriors and a variety of life lessons and rules. The above quote was the crowning gem. It sums up the mission of the blog and really should be the rallying call for every individual in modern society. Here, Jackson represents a very American strand of thinking that goes back to Emerson and Thoreau (ah, hell to Washington and Jefferson)—that hard independent streak that we all have, but tend to lose the true meaning of in an era of social media where being a true individual becomes harder and harder amid the multitude of soapboxes.

So, I salute and believe in Stephen Jackson for this quote. And you should too. Just ignore the parts where he talks about using his gun at a strip club and genuinely sounds like Wee-Bey from The Wire.

The Rajon Rondo Annual Assist Award — Nick Mencia

The next award is named in honor of one of my favorite contemporary basketball players (on his way to becoming one of my favorite players of all-time), Rajon Rondo. The purpose of this award is to celebrate the person who leant the best “helping hand” during the course of the year, whether that be a tip on a good book, album, great date restaurant, helping you get a date, or in general community service.

With Hurricane Sandy, the Aurora shooting and now the devastating tragedy in Newton, there have been plenty of public moments of humane assistance. So many, that its actually difficult to choose just one. So, in the interest of remaining true to this blog and not over-stepping my boundaries, this award is given to the person who gave me the best musical tip this year: co-owner of Real Sorbet, former lead singer of Forest City, winner of this very same award in 2012…my friend, Nick Mencia.

Back in the late spring of this year, I was looking for something new to listen to. Nothing in my iTunes could satisfy my ear. During one of my long distance phone conversations with Nick, he told me about this new musician, Father John Misty, that I needed to check out. FJM (not to be confused with the former Fire Joe Morgan sports blog) was the former drummer for the Fleet Foxes but had made an album that in many ways may have outdone the Fleet Foxes themselves.

I took to the album immediately and my appreciation for Fear Fun and Father John Misty has been appropriately documented on the Internet. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. So, thank you, Nick Mencia. You earned this one.

The Henry Jones Sr. Quest for the Holy Grail Award — Nate Silver

Was there any other choice? Nate Silver provided insightful analysis on poll results throughout the 2012 election, keeping schmohawks like yours truly informed and able to make small talk and drop intelligent statistics at cocktail parties (that’s right, I get invited to a lot of cocktail parties!).

Plus, I mean, the guy predicted the election. You know just predicted who would win the election to decide THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! Just a thing that people have been trying to predict for about two hundred years or so. That he did it in the face of increasingly antagonistic and “witch-hunterish” conservative pundits makes it even more impressive. Plus he gave us the infamous Karl Rove Breakdown of 2012.

The Fast N’ Fresh Deli Reliability Award — Michael Chabon

This award was originally named the Sal’s Pizzeria Reliability Award after Sal’s Pizza on Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, which, in my opinion, is the best pizzeria in New York City. However, I moved apartments this year and, in order to reflect that change, I decided that this award needed to be renamed. It is now named after the deli that serves the best tacos in New York City—Fast N’ Fresh Deli on Hoyt Street. Fast N’ Fresh may not look like much from outside, but the proprietor is a really nice, humble guy that lets a bum hang outside of the storefront; there is an open courtyard in the back where you can sit and drink Big Busch Beers when the weather is nice, and the tacos are absolutely phenomenal. I’ve been to Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, I’ve ravenously ripped into burritos at the Tortilla Factory in Bushwick and I’ve spent so much money at Gran Morelo’s in Williamsburg that I am actually a guarantor on the mortgage for that restaurant’s property. But nothing is more reliable than getting three carne enchilada tacos at Fast N’ Fresh Deli. You’re going to like the way you look while you eat those tacos, I guarantee it.

As an author, Michael Chabon is just as reliable. Sure, he went through a spell where he was writing genre-celebrating novels that weren’t exactly my bag, but even then, he was delivering the goods with his beautiful and focused prose. Now, with this year’s Telegraph Avenue, Chabon returned to the realism that made me love his work in the first place. Telegraph Avenue is filled with classic sentences and lines that contain that mix of Fitzgeraldian grace and beauty and Joycean unpredictability and music. Chabon makes the afternoon light of Oakland feel real and remembered to the reader just as he made the afternoon light of Pittsburgh feel real and remembered to the reader in his earlier work. He is a fine writer and perhaps the most reliable prose stylist creating in America today.

Have a taco on me, Mike.

The Sam Malone and Coach Ernie Pantusso Everybody Knows Your Name Award — Scratcher

Well, to be fair, the bartenders aren’t really the type to know your name and, hell, sometimes the service really isn’t that great, but rarely do bars get cozier, less-pretentious and more natural than Scratcher. You should go there any day of the week and just see for yourself.

It was possibly my favorite bar until this past weekend when I stumbled onto a new one that quickly became my new favorite. And you knot that I'm definitely not going to give you the name.

The Fleetwood Mac Memorial Artist Appreciation Award — Led Zeppelin

The Fleetwood Mac Memorial Artist Appreciation Award is one of my all-time favorite awards. Each year, this award is given to the classic rock act that seems to have come back in favor with indie rockers and Brooklynites (at heart, at heart) everywhere. Past winners have included Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson and, well, Fleetwood Mac, themselves.

This year, the award goes to Led Zeppelin because, well, it feels as though they had actually been underrated in recent years, as if that were even possible. And the recent release of their live DVD Celebration Day paired with an appearance on David Letterman has done a lot to showcase just how truly great their legacy is and just how much of a mythic status they still retain. Plus, damn, hasn’t Robert Plant had a pretty interesting solo career?

If you’re not sold on this award, just know that there is more to come on Led Zeppelin on this blog in 2013.

Oh, and my pick for next year’s winner? Billy Joel.

The Don Draper Award for Excellence in Advertising Award — ESPN

They get the win for this Manchester United/Manchester City commercial, which I just seem to find endlessly clever and entertaining. I’m not as much of an anglophile as I used to be, I swear!

The Leslie Knope Public Service Award — Snackman

There were hundreds of brave first responders, EMTs and public officials who went head first into action during Hurricane Sandy, plus there were also thousands of citizens who performed volunteer work in Staten Island, Rockaway, New Jersey and Manhattan, which made this a difficult award to give out this year. I could have copped out and took the same route Time did in 2006 and just chosen “the people,” however that’s not my style.

Instead, I had to make a brave choice and gave the award to Snackman—the man who casually broke up a fight on the subway while eating a bag of chips. That’s right, this man acted alone, in the best interest of the public and succeeded. He was also casual about his good deed, stating that he was merely on his way to “grab some drinks with a couple of girls.” You didn’t fool anyone with that remark, Snackman! We all know you have a heart of gold and sit in a fortress of solitude (probably somewhere hidden in a thicket in Prospect Park) planning your next act of good will.

Until next time, Snackman.

The True Lies Award — The San Francisco Giants
The whole team may not have been on HGH this year, but c’mon, no one cared about that World Series. In my book, they didn’t even win.

The Michael Ginsberg Upstart of the Year Award — Lena Dunham

This award was formerly known as the “Das Racist Upstart of the Year Award,” however Das Racist no longer exists. So, instead of calling it the “Das Racist Memorial Upstart of the Year Award,” I decided that the award should take the name of the year’s favorite fictional upstart, nice (or maybe odd is the better word choice) Jewish boy, Michael Ginsberg. Sure, he may or may not be an alien; and, sure, he may end up sabotaging Don Draper somewhere down the line—that doesn’t stop him from being a great upstart.

And, of course, Lena Dunham is this year’s winner. I’ve covered my thoughts on Girls as well as Lena Dunham as a personality, so I’m not going to rehash too much here. Just know that one of my goals for 2013 is (well, besides scoring a role as Adam’s “weird” high school buddy on the third season of Girls) to make a comprehensive list of the World’ Coolest Chick from 2011 up through 2013 and that Lena Dunham may or may not have snagged that award for 2012 as well.

The Michael Jordan Memorial Moustache Award — Carmelo Anthony

Be careful though, ‘Melo. You’re bordering on Hitler territory just like my hero and this award’s namesake.

The Doctor Doolittle Philotherian Award — Kevin Arkell

In a year when animal memes rose in the East and set…well, somewhere in the haze of ever-refreshing Twitter and Tumblr feeds, one man remained constant—a pillar of stability—in his love of animals. That’s right, my friend Kevin Arkell completed business school at the University of Washington in St. Louis, got a job at Nestle Purina and was still able to cat himself. Any man with that mixture of ambition and love for animals will NEVER have this award taken from him.

The Hank Kingsley Excellence in Arrogance Award — Mitt Romney

I think Romney’s name next to the title of this award is enough, right? Or maybe you need to watch this clip to get a better understanding of who Hank Kinglsey is? Did you watch it? I don’t need to explain this one any further do I? OK, good.

The Larry Sanders No Flipping Award — CO-WINNERS: You Don’t Know Bo and The Karl Rove Meltdown of 2012

I generally don’t like to have ties in any kind of competition or series of awards that I make up, but I had to make an exception in this case.

These days, this award is getting harder and harder to decide because Twitter has, by it’s inclusive nature, made almost anything worthy of the “No Flipping” designation, first made famous by one Larry Sanders. Take for instance the frenzy surrounding Liz & Dick, which, sure, was good for hate-watching, but was it really the “No Flipping” moment of the year?

No, these days we have to take our “No Flipping” moments in shorter, more self-contained moments such as Karl Rove’s stuttering, stumbling, implosion after Barack Obama was announced the winner of the 2012 Presidential Election. That, more than anything, was what a “No Flipping” moment looked like in 2012.

However, I’m a romantic bastard and You Don’t Know Bo, the highly anticipated 30 for 30 documentary that aired on ESPN earlier this month, fits the older criteria for this award. While You Don’t Know Bo was being presented with limited commercial interruption, you didn’t want to change the channel. Bo’s story was mesmerizing as was his flippant relationship to his own physical prowess and athletic gifts. However, what stood out the most was his sincerity. He seemed to walk through life with a code that he didn’t waver from at any point. There was a humility and a focus—not Jordanian or obsessive, but simple—in Bo Jackson and his athletic superiority and mythic status seemed to flow out of that fact.

I didn’t flip.

The Barksdales vs. Stanfields Award for Best Feud — Seinfeld Today vs. Seinfeld Stories

Are you kidding me? What, you thought I was going to say Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks or Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics—something stupid like that?

No, it doesn’t get any fiercer than two Twitter feeds churning out potential modern day Seinfeld episode synopses every day and sometimes taking pot shots at each other. If you want to get a taste for what a war for the corners and territory in Baltimore feels like, then just follow both of these Twitter accounts!

World’s Coolest Dude 2012 — Lebron James

That’s right, Lebron James is the World’s Coolest Dude 2012, joining a club of multiple winners that includes Michael Jordan, John Lennon, FDR, Louis CK, Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Ernest Hemingway and Babe Ruth.

Louis CK put together another strong year, but suffered from voter fatigue and from a somewhat up-and-down third season of Louie (though the season finale blew my mind and had me messed up for about a week after watching it). Mike Trout broke all kinds of MLB rookie records and was just generally inspiring to watch, but he just didn’t seem cool enough, inevitable enough. Usain Bolt was impressive and had an air of cool, but his inevitability faded after the summer turned into fall. And Frank Ocean fit the criteria of inevitability, but a late year push for Kendrick Lamar (as perhaps a more electric and exciting young musical figure) in the “Other” slot stole some of Frank’s thunder. Leaving Lebron as the clear-cut winner.

We love redemption stories in America. As much as we love creating heroes and myths, we perhaps love destroying them even more. We like people to be the best, but we also like to see them come low. We’re like Greeks, Romans and the Elizabethan English in that way. Not matter what kind of puritanical doctrines we espouse, deep down we want to see the blood; we want to see William Wallace hanged, drawn and quartered; we want to see Sadaam Hussein hanged and Osama bin Laden’s dead body.

Lebron James was certainly not under those life or death extremes, but after the Decision in 2010, we wanted to see how low he would fall. We wanted to see him fail; we wanted to see the Miami Heat crash and burn. When Lebron boasted about winning seven or eight titles in Miami, we scoffed and imagined him winning none. As the Heat struggled, we laughed and pointed and dissected every minute of the drama on television and on Twitter. And Lebron stooped to fall. He disappeared against the Mavericks in the 2011 Finals, the Heat lost the series and the eyes of the media further intensified their stare on James and his legacy.

However, a funny thing happened in May and June of this year. As the challenges were thrown in Lebron’s path to greatness, he met and conquered them. First, it was the explosion against the Pacers in Indianapolis in Game 4. Then it was the ungodly, all-time great performance against the Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which brought him to another level. Everything after that—Game 7 against the Celtics, his overall brilliance in every game of the Finals against the Thunder—seemed natural and inevitable. As though, yes, this was the way the world was always meant to be—history alive and present.

So, as Lebron smiled, danced and held the Larry O’Brien trophy, you knew that a new age was dawning. He led Team USA with nonchalance, but it was different than the casual, playful nature we had seen in years past. This time, there was no questioning his place as the best player on a team filled with “the best players.” He was confident, relaxed and in complete control of every part of his game and, in essence, his world.

He won the NBA MVP, Finals MVP, the NBA Championship, his second Olympic Gold Medal and was names Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. That domestic, warm, Samsung Galaxy commercial featuring Lebron, his family, his barber and the city of Miami seemed to play during every commercial break on every channel at every hour of the day.

Lebron James is once again our society’s hero. We watched him fall and are now privy to witnessing his reascension. The first time around we were “witnesses” in the sense that we were watching and being sold a product that we didn’t necessarily want to buy or truly believe in. Now, a mere championship and a world of poise and comfort later, we have no choice but to hand over our belief; hand over our belief to Lebron James. He is inevitable.

1 comment:

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