Isn’t it great? It’s 2008!
Let’s face it: It’s harder than ever to keep up with what’s in and what’s out in this ever-changing world. Fads take off and burn out before you even have a chance to notice them, raising the question: If a fad burns out in the forest and people are too busy programming their DVRs to notice, is it still a fad?
Be that as it may, you can stop worrying: Your guide to society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general is here. Just be forewarned — these may all have changed by 180 degrees by the time you read this. Flip-flopping is in.
Life in the USA
Thanks to astronomical gas and oil prices, sitting in your house being cold is in. The average homeowner will pay an extra $1,000 on home heating costs this year, but it’s all cyclical; it has nothing to do with the war in Iraq, or the Bush administration’s energy policies, or the fact that Dick Cheney wants to bomb Iran so badly that he can just taste it. Which reminds us: Counting the days until Bush and Cheney leave office is in.
Also spurred on by the high oil prices, going green is in — but mostly in the cute easy ways, like watching Nobel Prize winner Al Gore when he turns up on “30 Rock,” or looking intently at the little hybrid vehicles in the car flyers before going out and buying an SUV that could house an entire family of illegal immigrants.
Not that you would use it for that purpose: Illegal immigrants are out. But their kids are in — even Mike Huckabee thinks we should help them get a college education. Mike Huckabee!
Wanting to do something different in Iraq is in; actually figuring out what that something should be is out. But supporting the troops is more in than ever, except when it comes to things like funding veterans’ services. Which reminds us: Did we mention that counting the days until Bush and Cheney leave office is in?
Writing is out, at least in Hollywood, where as of this writing the writers are still out on strike. We know they need their fair share of the residuals and all that, but couldn’t they have waited until after the election year? Those Dennis Kucinich jokes can’t write themselves. Oh wait, yes they can.
Meanwhile, word has it all the movie and TV writers are hard at work writing novels, which will be published by the thousands and dumped immediately into remainder bins throughout the country. Novels are still out.
But being outed is in, which is unfortunate in some cases: Just ask Sen. Larry Craig and Albus Dumbledore, who are reportedly now dating.
Selling homes is out, so buying homes is in … but not with subprime or adjustable rate mortgages. Turns out those were a bad idea. Who could have seen that coming?
Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of Americans practice some form of organized religion, but mentioning religion in a public place is out; this also includes mentioning anything related to religion, like Christmas, Easter or the 1984 movie “Oh God! You Devil,” starring Ted Wass.
Ted Wass is out.
We’re not sure how it happened, but there are approximately 200 people running for president, and none of them could be considered “in,” with the possible exception of Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee!
But all the usual presidential election year stuff is in: pandering, fear-mongering, vacillating, capitulating … and that’s just Mitt Romney!
Ha, ha … A little presidential political humor there. Actually they’re all pandering, fear-mongering, vacillating and capitulating, except for Ron Paul, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, who say exactly what they really think and thus have been labeled hopeless loonies. Saying exactly what you really think is out.
Among the Democrats, Hillary remains in by default, mainly because she’s the only candidate referred to exclusively by her first name. This comes in handy, given the American attention span: Just ask Liza. But wait — either Obama or Edwards could come roaring past her any minute. Yep … any minute now. [Looks at watch.] OK, we’ll move on.
On the Republican side, all the candidates share the same problem: People are getting to know them. In particular, it’s become abundantly clear that instead of showing up for the debates, Fred Thompson should have had them splice in clips of him from “Law & Order.” Or better yet, clips of Sam Waterston.
Of the rest of the field, Giuliani is in with the people who are Republican because of taxes, and Huckabee is in with the people who are Republican because the country is going to hell in a handbasket, morality-wise. As for McCain, he’s quickly becoming the Joe Biden of the GOP — the principled, qualified guy who can’t figure out why he’s not winning. Frankly, we can’t figure it out either.
As for the rest of politics, we’ll do a quick rundown: firing U.S. attorneys for no reason, out; employing the services of the “D.C. Madam,” out; using the airport men’s room, out. And after their stunning win last year, the Democrats remain the in party in Congress, where they’ve been … Well, we’re sure they’ll get around to doing something eventually.
We’ve added a “Technology” section this year, because it seems like we’ve reached a point where we can’t get through life unless we have dozens of electronic devices hanging off our persons at any given moment. There’s the iPod in our pocket, the laptop in our briefcase, the BlackBerry in our pants, the Bluetooth thingy almost surgically attached to the side of our heads — we’re like the Borg, except we can hold more mp3’s.
Speaking of iPods, this was the year they became so in that it actually seemed weird not to have one, like a few years back when if you still didn’t have a cell phone, people started to look at you like you should be shipped off to some kind of colony to be cared for by elderly nuns. Senior citizens, elementary school students, everyone in between … they’ve all got iPods, and you know what’s really weird? Every one of them contains “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie.
As for the iPhone, that’s more of a mixed bag, as you may have figured out when they slashed the price by $200 soon after all those diehards slept on sidewalks for the privilege of paying in full. This was probably the source of much hilarity among the techies at Apple, who are still trying to get back at us for giving them wedgies all through high school.
That said, the iPhone is certainly in among those of us who like to stalk the people we just met on the T by calling up their MySpace or Facebook account before they’ve even gotten off at Park Street. Stalking people on MySpace or Facebook is in.
And cell phones in general are in, for taking pictures, text messaging and downloading music. Some people even talk on them. Text messaging while you drive is out, but someone forgot to tell the majority of teenagers, who are this close to communicating almost exclusively through emoticons. :^)
Also still in among anyone under 30: Downloading music and movies without, you know, paying for them. Dude, art should be free! Until all the artists run out of money and are forced to take jobs as accountants.
The Web is in (duh), with people shutting off their boob tubes, putting down their newspapers and steering clear of their shopping malls so they can spend their time uploading their videos on YouTube, sending their photos to Flickr, watching their comedy on sites like funnyordie.com, shopping on Amazon and eBay and checking out certain videos that would cost you at least $9.99 if you got them on the hotel pay-per-view. When they’re not doing that they’re networking with people who, if all goes according to plan, they’ll never have to actually meet.
Satellites are the in accessory — thanks to them we have GPS, which provides directions and tracks our kids, pets and felons, and satellite radio, which gives us the 24-hour reggae channel. Plus, we’re pretty sure we’re all going to be living on them after the icecaps melt.
Videogames are in, particularly the Wii, which holds the distinction of being the first videogame that can cause the same injuries as the actual activity the game is based on. (So concussions are in, and repetitive motion injuries are out.)
As for games, Halo 3 is in, while Halo 2 is out … Guitar Hero III is in, while Guitar Hero II is out … You get the idea. Meanwhile, we’re still sitting around waiting for the latest update of “Boggle.”
Special effects blockbusters — like “Spider-Man 3,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Transformers” — are in, so far as getting you to shell out your money at the box office. As far as being good, or even memorably bad, not so much: They just tend to sort of hang there on the screen, like a big set of $270 million drapes.
Movies about deep issues, like the war in Iraq and the threats to our freedoms in a post-9/11 world, are out — they make brain hurt. (Three out of four people who saw “Rendition” said they would actually have preferred to be waterboarded.)
On the other hand, movies about sex — who would have guessed it? — are in! But only ones with nerdy or schlubby guys, like “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.” That’s because most movies are written by ... nerdy or schlubby guys. Movies with Tom Cruise are out, whether they have sex in them or not.
But long-term franchises are in, with Daniel Craig’s take as James Bond being, some say, the best ever, although we know a certain Mr. George Lazenby who might disagree. And Harry Potter is now the most popular film franchise of all time, despite consisting of only five movies and catering to an audience that already knows the endings.
Plus there’s the very-in Bourne series, featuring Matt Damon as a former spy with amnesia; for instance, he’s forgotten that he used to be partners with Ben Affleck. As for Affleck, he’s in as a director, out as an actor, which works well for everybody involved.
Musicals are in thanks to “Hairspray,” one of two movies this year to feature John Travolta in a fat suit, the other one being “Wild Hogs.” That wasn’t a fat suit? Oh. But torture porn like “Saw” is finally out, although we can’t imagine why, with such a catchy moniker. (“Hey honey, want to go see some torture porn tonight? And then maybe pizza?”)
And actually going out to the movies is back in, thanks to IMAX, which offers something you can’t get from your home theater: the opportunity to walk through a furniture store. As for what’s on the IMAX screens, documentaries on Mount Everest and the Brazilian rainforest are out, and giant pectoral muscles are in. Also yelling the word “SPARTA!” at the top of your lungs. Go on, try it — we’ll wait.
On TV, thanks to the writers’ strike, reality TV is making a roaring comeback. If you don’t believe us, check out an episode of “Clash of the Choirs,” and then weep uncontrollably.
Not that all reality TV is bad … “Wife Swap” continues to make us all feel better about our own households, and “Dancing with the Stars” remains the only place you can watch Marie Osmond faint on live TV, with the possible exception of Larry King.
Larry King is in! Nobody knows why.
New shows are in, even though not many of them are good and nobody’s watching them. But because of the writers’ strike, there may not be anyone around to write new new shows next season — so they’re sticking with shows like “Life,” which was recently renewed even though the majority of the American public thinks it’s a breakfast cereal.
In an ironic twist, Kelsey Grammer, who was supposed to save the traditional sitcom with his new show “Back to You” with Patricia Heaton, instead took it out back and shot it in the hip. So the so-called one-camera comedies continue to rule the roost, with shows like “30 Rock” proving a huge hit with everyone except, you know, viewers.
And “The Office” was one of the most downloaded shows on iTunes, so NBC, showing the savvy that huge network conglomerates have become known for, took it off iTunes.
Instead it will supposedly someday be sort of available at NBC’s “Hulu,” which they’re predicting to be a tremendous success even though the majority of the American public thinks it’s a breakfast cereal.
The in nighttime soap for 20-somethings is CW’s “Gossip Girl,” the latest teen soap opera to feature rich kids gone bad, replacing “The OC” which replaced “Dawson’s Creek” which replaced “Melrose Place” which replaced “90210.” But wait, where did “One Tree Hill” fit in? “One Tree Hill” is out.
Viewers continue to be in confusion over “Lost,” and they’re losing patience with “Heroes” — OK, save the cheerleader/world already. But Emmy darling “Ugly Betty” is the in groundbreaker, with curvy Latina America Ferrera in its starring role. Braces and bad fashion never looked so chic, except maybe on “Square Pegs.” Remember “Square Pegs”? Obscure ’80s references are in.
Animation is in, with “The Simpsons” entering its 200th season coming off the success of “The Simpsons Movie,” which was the only summer blockbuster to feature a love affair with a pig, except for “Wild Hogs.” That wasn’t a pig? Oh.
And “Family Guy,” which is sort of like “The Simpsons”’ dimwitted hillbilly half-cousin, is getting better ratings than ever. Unfortunately, “Futurama” is still off the air, but maybe not for long — with “Bender’s Big Score” making a splash on DVD, it may see a return, hopefully in the place of “American Dad,” which is sort of like Family Guy’s dimwitted hillbilly half-cousin.
Now that “The Sopranos” is done, subscribing to HBO is out, along with buzzless shows like “Tell Me You Love Me” — if we wanted to see poorly lit un-erotic hanky panky, we’d just look on the Web for free. The Web is in (duh).
And thanks to all the Laws & Orders and CSI’s and Without a Traces, there’s not a crime that’s been invented that your average American couldn’t solve with some rubber gloves and access to a national DNA database. Ditto with diagnosing diseases, thanks to “House,” but no so much “Grey’s Anatomy,” where not all that much actual doctoring goes on — but don’t worry, McDreamy is still McIn.
We should start off by saying that, since it all became free over the Internet, there really hasn’t been any music that isn’t in. Also in: Saying things that make that little vein in record company executive’s foreheads bulge out.
That said, every year people make fun of us for pointing out how Bruce Springsteen has, once again, managed to remain in, despite having been making records since the Nixon administration. To which we respond: You can’t argue with reality.
For instance, this year he had a smash hit record, “Magic,” that’s turning up on all the year-end best-of lists, is mounting a hugely popular world tour with the E Street Band and has been called a major influence by some of the most up-and-coming new groups, including Arcade Fire, The National and The Hold Steady. There’s even a rumor that The Killers are going to give it up and just become a Springsteen tribute band. Springsteen tribute bands are in.
Justin Timberlake remained in this year, continuing his ongoing humanitarian mission to bring sexy back. (If you didn’t know sexy had even left, well, you’re probably beyond help.) The primary way he did this was going on “Saturday Night Live” and singing a song about wrapping up his privates like he had just purchased them at Bergdorf Goodman’s. (That was actually at the end of 2006, but let’s face it — it’s not going away.)
Amy Winehouse, with her retro Shirley Bassey-meets-Dusty Springfield style, was looking like the big breakout star of the year, until it turned out that the song “Rehab” was pretty much autobiographical. Incidentally, rehab is in.
“American Idol” graduates are in, with Elliot Yamin, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry’s band “Daughtry” scoring big hits. (“Daughtry” — worst band name ever. That’s including Hoobastank. Hoobastank is out.)
On the classic rock front, reunions are in, with Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, the Police, Genesis, the Eagles and others all getting their post-middle-aged butts back on the concert stage. But it’s not about the money — it’s just a coincidence that the Police reunion took place after Sting’s album of 16th-century lute songs sold two copies, both to his mother.
And for those keeping track of the Van Halen soap opera, David Lee Roth is back in, and Sammy Hagar is still out. Also, Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie’s kid) is in, and original bassist Michael Anthony is out. Buttless chaps and spandex tank tops: still out. (Sorry, Dave.)
Hip-hop is back in, thanks to the likes of Jay-Z, with his one-two punch of “Kingdom Come” and “American Gangster” (with an “er” at the end … you’ve got to admit, that’s refreshing). He also turns up on this past summer’s everywhere single, Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” You know, we’re starting to get the idea she may not be talking about an actual umbrella.
T-Pain was in with “Buy U a Drank,” an offer to which we say, “No thinks.”
Unfortunately, going to big concerts is out for most average Joes, with hot shows sold out in 30 seconds and tickets showing up online minutes later at huge markups by “ticket brokers.” Fortunately, the brokers will soon all be hunted down and clubbed by the mothers of Hannah Montana fans. In the meantime, seeing local bands in small clubs is in. The T-shirts are cheaper there too.
Finally, on the radio, the satellite junkies are duking it out with the HD radio types. Satellite is currently in the lead, mainly because nobody can prove that HD radio actually exists.
And of course Don Imus is back in, with a huge settlement, a better deal and a bigger audience. Hopefully, Al Sharpton is getting a cut.
OK, we’re just going to come out and say it: Cheating is in!
And not just run-of-the-mill, use-an-extra-inch-of-pine-tar kind of cheating. Be it players taking steroids, coaches videotaping opponents or refs betting on basketball, there hasn’t been skullduggery this blatant since that guy dated Marcia so he could steal a copy of Greg’s football playbook on “The Brady Bunch.” Yes, it’s that serious.
All that aside, though, around these parts there’s not a sport that’s not in, what with our world champion Boston Red Sox and thus-far perfect Patriots, whose games have started to resemble an encounter between Wile E. Coyote and a Mack truck. Of course, the Celtics are still so boring that … What? Best in the NBA? When did that happen? Nobody tells us anything.
Throw in Boston College, the once lowly Bruins and even the New England Revolution soccer team — soccer team! — and being a Boston sports fan is in. Unfortunately, affording tickets is out.
As for Sox specifics, perhaps the biggest key to the season was leaving Jonathan Papelbon in — the bullpen, that is, after some ill-conceived thoughts about making him a starter. (Just think: Had the Sox brass not come to their senses, we may have missed out on Paps Riverdancing in his skivvies and kids everywhere asking to wear Bud Light boxes on their heads for Halloween.)
For the Patriots, in was wide receiver Randy Moss, who quickly became quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite target; out was Reche Caldwell, he of the annoying AFC championship drop that allowed Peyton Manning to finally get a Super Bowl ring, much to the chagrin of Patriots fans.
But don’t worry, the score is still Brady 3 (soon to be 4), Manning 1 when it comes to Super Bowls. (Manning, however, leads 8 gazillion to 1 on the “number of annoying commercials” scoreboard, Brady’s lone tally coming from his befuddling decision to become a pitchman for Stetson cologne. What’s next? Lee jeans? Members Only jackets? How this isn’t a deal breaker with Giselle we’ll never know.)
Speaking of Brady’s love life, in to the world came John Edward Thomas Moynahan, Brady’s son with Bridget Moynihan, and out the window went Brady’s rep as wholesome all-American boyfriend. So see, ladies — you’re better off without him.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are out as the unbeatable “evil empire,” instead taking the Red Sox’s old slot as loveable late-season heartbreakers. Wait … Would that make the Red Sox the new evil empire? Well, as long as they win, whatever.
As for the rest of sports, we’ll do a quick rundown: Golf, out; tennis, out; track and field, out; figure skating … in. What? We like all the sequins.
Behaving better was in for celebrities this year, with fewer arrests (Kiefer Sutherland, Lane Garrison of “Prison Break” and the entire cast of “Lost” notwithstanding) and wild-eyed tirades (except for Alec Baldwin, who at least wasn’t being anti-Semitic or racist, just a poor parent). Our theory: Britney Spears has scared everybody straight.
As for Britney … poor, poor Britney. She is out in every way a person can be out: out of favor with her fans, with MTV, with her judge in family court, and possibly out of her mind. On the plus side, it seems she’s started wearing underwear again. Underwear is back in.
Lindsay Lohan continues to follow Britney down the garden path to out-dom, with her rehab struggles and flop movie where she played a dismembered stripper. But, in her defense, when has a dismembered stripper movie not worked?
Publishing photos of trim, healthy celebrities in tiny bikinis and calling them “fat” is in, as is responding to the unfounded accusations of fatness by posing on the cover of People in a more flattering bikini and declaring, “You call this fat?” Meanwhile, by these standards, the rest of us should never set foot on a beach without a parka.
As for celebrities and their pets, carrying dogs around in your purse is out — even Paris Hilton doesn’t do that anymore, having replaced her Chihuahua with Nicole Ritchie. Prompting your dogs to fight each other while other people bet on it is way out, but Michael Vick is in — jail, for a good 23 months. And giving your dog away is out. This means you, Ellen. Oh, stop sobbing, for crying out loud.
And it’s still in to go on Larry King to pick over the bones of every sordid celebrity story from Anna Nicole Smith to whatever the latest thing is that O.J may have done, if he did it.
Larry King is in! Nobody knows why.
As far as kids go, it’s Hannah Montana’s world ... we just look in on it from the outside, basking in the glow of its tween-power vibe. Hannah, a.k.a. Miley Cyrus, has the in TV show, album and concert, and is also the in lawsuit target after parents used to giving their little darlings everything they want were shut out for tickets. Meanwhile, millions of Bruce Springsteen fans are collectively slapping their foreheads for not thinking of filing a class action lawsuit 25 years ago.
As you’ve probably surmised, Disney Channel is in, Disney movies are in and Disney music is in — in addition to Hannah, there’s of course the ubiquitous cast of “High School Musical.” (So what if one of them had naked pictures on the Internet? You should have seen the pictures Walt had up in his locker back in Burbank.)
Throw in the post-modern princess of “Enchanted” and boy-band-in-training The Jonas Brothers and you have a Disney lock on the hearts and minds of the nation’s youth. Meanwhile, the staff over at Nickelodeon has officially started to contemplate self-immolation.
Toys from China are out: they’re fun to play with and reasonably priced, but have the unfortunate side effect of killing and maiming small children. This makes the marketing campaign extremely difficult; we think there’s a class on that at Wharton now.
What is in are Webkinz, the stuffed animals with online alter egos, as creepy as that seems — last week a polar bear was arrested after trying to pick up a penguin who was really a New Hampshire state trooper.
Also, Star Wars toys are still all the rage, and we’re glad — now that the movies are over we were afraid George Lucas might have to cut back on his digital yachts. And Littlest Pet Shop toys continue to capture the imaginations of children who like their animals plastic, big-headed and creepy looking ... which is all of them.
But with the failure of the Bratz movie, the dolls are out: It seems everybody finally realized that they look like circus tramps, and not the good kind. Circus tramps are out.
Books and fashion
In the world of literature, millions of people are reading books — unfortunately, they’re all reading the same book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” The final installment of the phenomenal series was released to huge midnight crowds in July, with even the most casual fans desperate to discover the boy wizard’s fate — it was the most anticipated literary event since Little Nell. Remember Little Nell? Obscure 1800s references are in.
As for reading other books, not so much, unless Oprah recommends them. Her latest book club pick, “Barack Obama,” skyrocketed right to the top of the charts. He’s not a book? Oh.
And if you needed further proof of the demise of the written word (beyond the fact that in this article we’ve actually combined books with fashion, of all things), metacritic.com has stopped compiling book reviews. But don’t worry, you can still go there to find 54 reviews of Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii.
In the world of fashion, meanwhile, we’re told black North Face fleece jackets coupled with Uggs boots are on their way out, despite being the standard issue uniform of every college girl in the United States. It turns out that very few of these girls are actually planning to hike Mount Everest, although they do enjoy being well protected from the biting chill of a cold linoleum floor.
But the ’80s are back in, with black stretch pants, bold colors and gold jewelry ruling the runways. That’s right, the women are dressing like Adam Ant again ... all is right with the world. Also in are pencil skirts, or at least they were until they were recalled due to high lead content. Wait, sorry, that was the Chinese toys.
And among men, let us check our notes ... Ah, here we go: jeans and T-shirts, still in.
Thank God. We never looked good in black stretch pants.
Visit Peter Chianca at chianca-at-large.blogspot.com.
This year’s “What’s In/What’s Out” by Peter Chianca features research by: Jason Angel, Gary Band, Elizabeth Christiansen, Richard Clapp, Sarah Corbitt, Terry Doyle, Lisa Guerriero, Caroline Herr, Dan MacAlpine, Joe McConnell, Natalie Miller, Kris Olson, Charlene Peters, Nancy Prag, Kevin Smith, Wendall Waters and Sarah Wolfe.