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Sparks Tribune’s 2011 pop culture picks
by Tribune Staff
Dec 28, 2011 | 597 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SPARKS — The year in pop culture was as superficial as ever – Lady Gaga, anyone – but there were a few highlights that jarred the cynicism out of the editorial staff of the Sparks Tribune. It’s always difficult to pick our favorite song, album, movie and book of the year, akin to choosing one child over another, but we’ve made peace with the fact that our 2011 choices might not be popular at all.

Picks by editor Nathan Orme

Song: Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” – While I rarely give credence to Grammy nominations and rarely listen to rap, Eminem has always struck a chord with me and his song “Love The Way You Lie” again shows his strong lyrical skills. A duet with Rhianna, “Love The Way You Lie” is about a man and woman in a love/hate relationship and the rollercoaster of violence and alcohol in which they ride. “You ever love somebody so much, you could barely breathe when you with ‘em? / You meet, and neither one of you even knows what hit ‘em / Got that warm fuzzy feelin’, yeah, them chills, used to get ‘em / Now you’re gettin’ fuckin’ sick of looking’ at ‘em.” The video is overly dramatic, as most music videos are, but it conveys the drama of the song.

Album: Johnny Winter “Roots” — Though I first learned of Johnny Winter through my mother’s vinyl record collection, his new release proves he’s not a dust-covered has-been. It is not uncommon for white bluesmen to release strong albums later in their careers (à la Eric Clapton), it is easy for these efforts to go unnoticed. But thanks to his undiminished guitar playing skills, strong collaborations with other musicians and smart choice of classic songs, Winter’s newest studio effort has been noticed by fans and critics alike. “Roots” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Blues Albums charts and ended 2011 at No. 10. Winter covered material such as Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom,” Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” and Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working.” Also appearing is Winter’s younger brother Edgar (of “Frankenstein” fame) on the track “Honky Tonk.”

Movie: “Megan is Missing” — This film should scare the pants off anyone with a child and a modem. Part of the hot “lost footage” trend (e.g., “The Blair Witch Project” and the “Paranormal Activity” series) this movie follows the exploits of two teenage girls: one a raunchy, boy-crazy girl and the other her goodie two-shoes friend. When the oversexed friend goes missing after meeting up with a hot guy she found online, the good friend goes looking for her and eventually is nabbed by the same online predator. The first hour or so of the movie is a slow set-up, intended to build characterization and ultimately make the viewer relate to the people involved. The final half hour or so of the film, however, is a terrifying depiction of a young girl praying for her release from the clutches of a psychopath. Even for a horror movie fan such as myself, this flick left me wide-eyed and out of breath.

Journalism: L.A. Times’ “Discovering Autism” — Perhaps the most divisive psychological, educational and social issue of the last three decades, the reporters of the Los Angeles Times did a four-part story about autism discussing the condition from clinical and personal points of view. Starting with the struggles of a 2 1/2-year-old boy, reporter Alan Zarembo goes on to talk about the parents’ struggle to find out what was wrong with their son and how their journey is just one of millions happening nationwide. He also delves into why diagnoses of autism are up and talks to doctors and other experts to try and shed light on whether the condition is more prevalent or more recognizable. Finally, he discusses how the high number of autism cases have put a strain on services in California at a time of evaporating resources. Photographer Francine Orr’s images are a beautiful and telling while numerous graphics help convey the statistical side of the story.

Picks by reporter Joshua H. Silavent

Song: Coldplay’s “Every Teardop is a Waterfall” – I know my friends will rag on me for this choice, but lyrically no other pop song better captured the mood of a Western world caught in the throes of economic and social despair better than Coldplay’s simple, anthemic melody. Set in the middle-half of a concept record that narrates the lives of two lovers struggling to find meaning and beauty in an artless, dystopian world, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” captures the hope that springs from sorrow. Key lyric: “Every siren is a symphony.”

Album: Foo Fighters “Wasting Light” – It’s been a long time since a truly hard-hitting, straight-ahead, no-ballads rock album hit the mainstream, but it should come as no surprise that the Foo Fighters, led by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, made it happen in 2011. “Wasting Light” wastes no energy and, for me, captured the essence of what rock n’ roll can be in the 21st Century and what it’s been lacking for the better part of a decade.

Journalism: Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit” – Not really book length – it’s more like a novella or long magazine article – this no-holds-barred takedown of philanthropist Greg Mortensen and his Central Asia Institute was the first publication from Byliner.com, which has been described as a “discovery engine for narrative nonfiction.”

Krakauer investigates the truth behind Mortensen’s claims in the latter’s bestselling “Three Cups of Tea,” which chronicles Moretensen’s arrival in a Pakistani village after descending the steps of K2. Mortensen later went on to found CAI, which builds schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Krakauer, a renowned investigative journalist who has written about the U.S. government’s cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death, debunks many of the claims in Mortensen’s book and also reveals the financial windfall Mortensen has inherited at the expense of his nonprofit.

Picks by reporter Jill Lufrano

Song: “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith — This is the only song on the album “Clancy’s Tavern” that the singer did not co-write. The Warren Brothers wrote the song with brothers Brett and Jim Beavers. The song started out as a joke between the writers, according to the Taste of Country website, but was picked up by Keith’s team and became a song. I love the lyrics: Imagine a football player-sized man with a guitar singing about the love for his plastic cup. It’s a happy tune. If everyone listened to this song once a day, there would be no more crime.

Album: “Hilarious” by Louis C.K. — The only album I’ve downloaded this year was comedian Louis C.K.’s “Hilarious,” made probably a year before this. It is actually as the name implies and I’ve probably listened to it about a hundred times. I am too old now to put down hard-earned money for entire music albums. The problem is, if you are like me and can’t figure out your iTunes player, your “music” and “comedy” and “book” albums all get mixed into one long list when you download them. So, when you go into shuffle mode, you get one chapter of a book, one slice of comedy and a song all in a row as you drive to work. It’s hard to keep up.

Movie: “Super 8” — I didn’t get out to the theaters very often during 2011. Out of the few I did see, I would choose “Super 8” this year. This was a classic movie about growing up, shot from the viewpoint of a group of young teens in the 1970s. Written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, this movie brought back so many memories about my own childhood. I remembered life without cell phones or DVDs, when you had a bunch of neighborhood friends and you spent all summer running around town until dark. “Super 8” takes place in a small Ohio town in the summer of 1979. This group witnesses a train crash after sneaking out to make a super 8 movie about zombies. Shortly after the crash, strange things start happening around the town. People begin disappearing and the small group starts to unravel the mystery. The twist at the end was true science fiction, but the story brought back memories about a time when kids were allowed to be kids.
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