FAVORITE BOOK: Arsenals of Folly by Richard Rhodes. It starts with a detailed account of what happened at Chernobyl--with insanely courageous helicopter pilots sitting on lead plates as they flew over the open pit to drop clay on the radioactive mess--and then moves on to a gripping history of the nuclear arms race that began when the Soviet Union exploded its "Joe" device. Explaining Ronald Reagan's obsession with the Star Wars technology and Mikhail Gorbachev's epiphany after Chernobyl, this book is the perfect companion piece to Rhodes' other two nuclear books, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb.
FAVORITE MOVIE: As I've mentioned here, I'm one of those people whom the theater owners have driven off with their indefensible system in which ticket prices and the number of commercials rise in tandem, not to mention the crappy food, bad service, their unwillingness to keep 14-year-olds out of R-rated movies and their refusal to ban cell phones from all films.
I used to go to the movies once or twice a week; now, it's four or five times a year, maybe. I used to hate to go to the sneak previews because of the crowds. Now, it's the only time you can see a movie without the text-messaging addicts flipping open their phones every five seconds. The People in Black see to it that nobody opens up a cell phone during an advance screening; I like them.
Of the movies I saw this year in the theater, I really liked Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. My son and I went to see Superbad at the dollar theater on Thanksgiving Day and were the only ones in the theater. That movie's filthy, but quite funny.
My favorite, however, has to be The Bourne Ultimatum. He's so much cooler than James Bond. When he uses a book to whup that bad guy, it's one of the great "Yeah!" moments in movie history.
FAVORITE MUSIC: God help me, my favorite CD that was released this year was Amy Winehouse's Back to Black. I know she's nuts; I know she's wildly self-destructive; I know she's hard to look at for more than a couple of seconds. But that voice, the arrangements, those lyrics!
My second-favorite was an obscure CD called S.O.S.: Save Our Soul by Marc Broussard. The guy looks like he could be the son of Dick Butkus and Roseanne Barr, but his vocal cords have been touched by God. He sounds alternately like Al Green and Otis Redding, and is basically the second coming of Eddie Hinton. The 12 people who understand that reference will know that it's high praise, indeed. I also liked (but didn't love) the new studio CDs by John Fogerty and The Eagles.
FAVORITE PHOTO: One of the oddest episodes of the year involved a knucklehead whose entire family was in the United States illegally. This genius, who probably should have been keeping his head down and his nose clean, took drugs to school. He got popped, and his parents got called. They showed up and, unable to provide ID, admitted that they were here illegally. The cops called in the Border Patrol, who swept up the family, stopped by Doolen Middle School to pick up the younger brother and took them all to Mexico.
The next day, kids walked out of class at Catalina High Magnet School and marched down the street, not protesting the fact that this idiot put his entire family in jeopardy by taking drugs to school, but instead protesting that his family got deported after admitting to law-enforcement personnel that they were in the country illegally. A photograph appeared in the Arizona Daily Star with a young male carrying a sign that reads, "They can't deport us all."
Y'know, there are only a handful of people who want to "send them all back," and most Americans don't want to deport anybody. But if we were going to deport just one, I'd hope it's that little bitch with the sign.
It's like in the movie Tombstone, when Wyatt Earp has a gun up against Ike Clanton's forehead. One of the cowboys says, "Let's rush him!" Earp looks into Ike Clanton's eyes and says, "Your friends might get me in a rush, but not before I make your head into a canoe."
Just keep it up, Sign Boy. Please continue to protest as you exercise your rights as an American citizen ... oh, no, wait.
FAVORITE REACTION: It's a dead-heat on this one, a tie between the twisted sphincters on Republicans after Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the brazen scrambling by the Bush administration after the release of the intelligence report showing that Iran is not trying to make an atomic bomb. In the case of the latter, there were a few very clumsy moments before they bunkered down and did the Cheney. As the vice president continues to throw out that completely discredited line of crap about Saddam Hussein having been connected to Sept. 11, Bushies are trying to claim that the entire intelligence community is wrong, and they're right. Sorry, no invasion for you!