There were some personal moments this year that were probably just as important as anything on this list (certain conversations with friends and family and things like that), but this list is written more with an eye toward popular culture experiences that others might relate to, but which I enjoyed throroughly over the course of the year. I'm sure I'm probably leaving some stuff off this list that I'll regret later, but here's what I've got right now, anyway...
10 - ACL Fest - What can I say? I go every year, and this year didn't have my favorite all time lineup, but ACL Fest is consistently one of the most entertaining events to attend each year, and this year wasn't even unbearably hot!
9 - The Last Season of The Wire - I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The Wire is one of the best shows to have ever been put on television (at least American television), and it came to an end this year with a season that was worthy of the show's reputation. I'm gonna miss those characters, but it's so great to see a show set out with a gameplan (of themes, characters, and plot), stick to it, and then take a bow and take their leave before they've worn out their welcome. The Wire isn't going to be all things to every viewer, but The Wire was a show with as much depth and substance as a really good novel (or series of novels), and by making its focus the workings of modern American inner city life, it couldn't have chosen a more interesting or important subject.
8 - The Raconteurs - I didn't see all that much live music in 2008, but I made it to some shows, and this was undoubtedly the most lively, loudest, rockingest show that I went to this year. The boys from The Raconteurs are obviously careful students of old-school, Zeppelin style rock and roll, and they stake their reputations upon the quality of their live shows. Very cool stuff that left my ears ringing and my mind blown by the end of the show.
7 - Grand Theft Auto IV - It's a really cool game that takes full advantage of the technology offered by the next generation gaming platforms, and it's shown us that videogames can tell stories that are every bit as compelling as the ones we watch in movies and on television. GTA IV introduced us to the most well-developed character to ever appear in a videogame (i.e, Eastern Bloc refugee, Niko Bellic), and it showed us the future of where videogames are headed.
6 - The Dark Knight - The Steans brothers love their comic book movies, and we're longtime fans of Batman, in particular (although one of us still digs Superman an awful lot). Anyway, this was the Batman movie we had all been waiting for- a gritty, relatively "realistic" take on the Batman story, with Heath Ledger turning in a legendary performance as The Joker and Christian Bale roaring through the streets of Gotham on a batcycle from hell. If you like Batman, it's hard to see how you wouldn't love this movie.
5 - Iron Man - Iron Man was "the other" superhero movie that came out this year, but in a lot of ways it was easier to enjoy than Batman. It was funnier, slicker, and less tortured than Dark Knight, but still chock full of fun superhero action. Robert Downey, Jr., turned in a performance that almost let you believe that it might be a good idea to let an alcoholic billionaire fly around the world unchecked in a supersonic suit of armor that contains a small arsenal.
4 - Radiohead - What can you say about Radiohead? They're one of the top ten bands of the last ten years, and they were at the top of their game when we saw them in Houston at the Woodlands Pavillion. Combine the music (which they do a great job of recreating in a live setting) with a concert experience with some of your best friends, and it's pretty easy to see why this ranks up there.
3 - TV on the Radio - It might not have technically been quite as good a show as The Raconteurs, but it was the first time I had seen this band live in concert, and I was mesmerized in a way that you can only get with a new band who's just drawing you in for the first time (and a band that's definitely on the rise in terms of the quality of their music and the critical response they're receiving). TVOTR put in a much better live performance than I was expecting, and their combination of driving rhythms, interesting lyrics, and haunting melodies was hypnotic and energizing at the same time. When your biggest complaint is that the show should have been longer, at least you know you've seen a good show.
2 - Obama Wins the Election - Such a relief and a feeling of joy after feeling ignored and kicked around for the last eight years. I think Sigmund kind of helped sum it when he said, "We've finally got someone in office who speaks our language and who cares about the same kind of things that we care about." Not only was I elated to see Obama make it into office, but I was happy to see the American people finally put their foot down and say that they were tired of arrogant foreign policy, an economy that benefits only our most wealthy, and a government which is more concerned with controlling and manipulating the public than with honestly communicating with them and representing them fairly. We'll see how effective the Obama presidency turns out to be, but demanding positive change is a good place to start, and if nothing else, we can feel good about the triumph of optimism over cynicism that we saw in this election.
1 - The Costa Rica Trip - It was probably one of the best things I did this year. Even when we were lost in the Costa Rican countryside or in the snarled congestion of San Jose, it felt a bit like an adventure, and Roundball was a great partner in the undertaking. The trip came at a good time, and I think it helped me feel better in a way that I hadn't really experienced in awhile. Costa Rica had some really beautiful beaches and some beautiful countryside, and the people there were very friendly and easy to deal with. It took me out of my head and reminded me that the world is a whole lot bigger than the tiny corner of it that I experience in my daily life, and that lesson helped put some things in perspective and helped me clear my thoughts. I'd love to go back, but there are other places I'd like to see, as well. I need to spend more time travelling.