Tuesday, January 1, 2008

THE BEST OF 2007 - Part 4 - Danny's Year in Review

And here we are - January 1st, 2008 ...! Happy New Year, everyone.

If you haven't yet, be sure to scroll down and check out yesterday's MASSIVE movie wrap-up, with my picks for the best films of 2007, and much more! Beyond that are my picks for this past year's best in television, music, and comics, so if you're just catching up, you've got a lot of reading to do!

But right now, I'm going to get away from movies and TV for a moment and look back on my year in 2007. It's funny to even talk about it, because let's be honest, for most of the year I've stayed away from writing much about myself here on the blog. In some ways, it takes a load off to know that I don't have to really worry about stuff I'm writing being analyzed, interpreted, or miscontrued by any of the people who may be reading this. I mean, I know a lot of you guys read this via the imported notes on Facebook, and in the last several weeks alone, it's become apparent that creating a Facebook profile is apparently the new trend among many of the higher-ups at work. So more than ever, I (and all of you), should probably be careful about what we put up online. Man, it was only recently that this blog was read by no one but myself and a few friends, and that my Facebook and MySpace profiles were looked at only by a few dozen friends from high school and college. Here in 2007, the times they are a changin' ...

But for me, 2007 was probably my first real year of stability since graduating college. For the first time, I held the same job and title throughout the entire year, holdin' down the fort at NBC-Universal and working in new media in a pretty interesting time for television. In the last year, I've been on the frontlines as NBCU made a much-publicized split from iTunes, and as the writer's went on strike - protesting in large part due to the efforts of groups like ours to expand our network's digital distribution reach. So the fact that I held a steady job in television by no means meant that things were quiet for me or for the industry - every month has brought new challenges and changes in the worlds of technology and entertainment.

Still, it was amazing and kind of scary whenever I looked back and realized that it was getting to be a full two years since I finished up the NBC Page Program in early 2006. In my department this year, we began recruiting NBC Pages to work on assignment with our group, and it was actually really cool in that we've had some great guys and girls come through who gave me someone to hang out with at work and keep in the loop with a whole new crop of pages. A shout-out to Chris E and Genevieve, who I had a blast working with in '07. I was also lucky in that, through a combination of old friends and new, I was able to meet a ton of new people in '07 and make some great new friends, which is tougher and tougher to do when you're removed from a great social outlet like the Page Program and working the daily grind. It was definitely two different worlds though - my office where I'm the youngest there by far, and the times I hung out with the current crop of pages, where I was beginning to sound like the old man who always says "well, in MY day ...".

As always though, while it was great to meet so many new people, what I'm really grateful for is that I was able to keep in touch with so many people from high school, college, and my first few years here in CA. Of course, Aksel and myself shared many an adventure this year, as always, but I also got to hang out with Bradd in LA and the OC, Erica and Daniella in NYC, Stephanie P. in CT, and I even saw Kirsten S., straight from Australia (and Dan L. too, who made a brief appearance in LA en route from OZ). And despite some people moving away or falling out of touch, most of the great people I've come to know and love from the Page Program days remained good friends. And like I said, I met a ton of cool new people as well - I even hung out with Richard Rubin of Beauty and the Geek fame!

Also, this was the year that I turned the big 25. Not as traumatic as I thought it might be, but still ... somewhat traumatic. Luckily, I remained charmingly immature, and managed to have a fun birthday with a return trip to Pasadena to celebrate the big event.

Seriously though, there were many great times this year to counterbalance the long hours at work.

There were two trips to the East Coast over the summer - one that included a Fourth of July visit with Erica and her friends in NYC, and a second which was a business trip that began with a badly sprained ankle that still bothers me to this day, but turned out to be a lot of fun as I hung out with my brother in NYC and got to see one of my Camp Shalom partners in crime, Daniella G, to boot. In March, we made yet another trip to Wizard World, during which I got some photos with Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell ... but the highlight of the summer and maybe of the year may have been mine and the G-Man's awesome, first-ever trip to the San Diego Comic-Con! Aside from three days of pop-cult, geek insanity, we got to hang with the X-plosion and Adriana and Jules, partied with Aksel in downtown San Diego, and I even got to see tha man, myth, and legend that is Chris Agra, a BU reunion that had been a long, long-time coming. Oh, and how can I forget about my first-ever trip to VEGAS, where Brian, Scott, Aksel and I saw the sights of Sin City and had many an adventure, from crazy cab drivers to the fireball-filled insanity of Rain at The Palms.

Halloween, as always, was a scary-good time. Our annual trip to Knotts Scary Farm was a ton of fun, as was my traditional Horror Movie Marathon. And of course, Carlos came through with yet another memorable Page-O-Ween, at which I donned the CTU duds of Jack Bauer and brought the gravitas.

As I mentioned in my music post, I may have seen more concerts this year than I ever have before in the span of twelve months. With fellow rock n' rollers like Bradd, Liz, Kyle, and Brian, I rocked my socks off to several awesome rock shows - there was POISON, there was THE SCORPIONS, there was the insane triple bill in the OC of Styx, Foreigner, and DEF LEPPARD, and there was VAN HALEN. While my wallet might still be recovering from buying all of these tickets, I can't wait for the next chance to rock in 2008!

I also discovered some great new haunts in '07. I became a regular at the Arclight theater, played volleyball at the Santa Monica pier, and saw a band play at The Roxy. I served on a BU Young Alumni panel, and saw John Edwards come to NBC to speak in support of the writers. I had a bunch of celebrity econcounters, mostly at work -- I saw Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols eating lunch, Belinda Carlisle, Jerry Springer, and Paula Abdul in our office, and saw the immortal Hulk Hogan in his new role as host of American Gladiators, a new NBC show for which I attended a live taping. I saw tons of great films at a number of cool theaters, and saw the Lakers and Dodgers play from some awesome courtside seats. And yet, I came to appreciate good ol' Burbank - home of Islands, Fuddruckers, The Olive Garden, and three different movie theaters, with minimal traffic compared to the craziness that is most of greater LA. Gotta love it.

And then, there was the family trip to LONDON in November, just after Thanksgiving in CT. It was great to travel outside of the US again, and amazing to return to London where I had such a great time studying in 2003. I saw and did a ton, visits to places that were old favorites as well as some sights that I had yet to take in. I even got to see the Goodman girls, cousins of my old rommate Gabby who I had met in '03, and introduce them to my brother.

Since Thanksgiving, things have been pretty low-key. But I feel like the year ended on a number of good notes and I'm psyched for '08. I've had a nice run of consecutive four-day weekends in which I saw some great movies, got together with a number of friends, and even saw my brother Matt while he was in town for the USY International convention. Of course, this year wasn't all awesomeness (despite the name of the blog ... I know, I know!). I was stuck in that weird point where I was transitioning from college and the immediate world of post-grad freedom to the semi-drudgery of corporate America - long hours, lots of time sitting at a desk staring at a computer, and minimal pay that allows me to pay the rent, feed my weekly comic book habit, see movies and eat the occasional dinner out, and, um, not much else. Not to say that I'm not doing okay - in a year where many of my peers and friends lost their jobs thanks to the Strike, I found myself, more and more as '08 approached, feeling lucky just to have a job in the industry that I am passionate about, and to have a steady paycheck and health insurance (one of my other big achievements of 2007 - becoming a salaried employee and finally having my own health insurance!). Still though, like a lot of people my age, I'm happy to have a job and to be making a living, but still dreaming big dreams and wanting to make a mark. I still want to be a writer, to do creative work, to make the next great film or TV show, to conquer Hollywood. I still want to find more time to write, to finish up a number of screenplays and spec scripts, want to get an agent, and want to get together with more creative-minded people to have fun and do some creating. Aside from all that, well, it's simply really difficult to balance all of one's passions and ambitions with the grind of a demanding day job. Among other things, I want to join a basketball team, learn to play guitar, read more books, and get more involved in Jewish activities. Those are just some of my goals for '08 ... but I think the main challenge ahead is going to be balancing my job with my professional ambitions - making sure I don't get stuck in a rut, and keeping my biggest goals and dreams fresh in my mind while actively working towards 'em.

As far as '08 goes in general, all I can say is: thank the lord. We'll FINALLY have a new president by year's end, and I am simply counting down the days. If there's one subject that I plan to write more than a few blog entries on in the coming months, it's the impending presidential election. I've got plenty to say ... all I can hope for is that a.) people of my generation actually get off their asses and VOTE (it's high time they did!), and that b.) America makes intelligent choices and steers clear of the candidates who could run our country even further into the ground (cough*Guliani-Huckabee-Romney*cough). But I remain optimistic, andthink that the vast majority of Americans will be looking for a change that gets us as far away from Bush and company as possible. Because, wow, politically, 2007 was a terrible year for our country. The war in Iraq dragged on with little progress, a number of scandals and bouts of incompetence further exposed the Republican party as being full of hypocrites and fools (Larry Craig, Alberto Gonzalez, et al), and we raced further towards climate crisis with no new environmental policies to change things and a bunch of Bush's guys still in denial that global warming is even an actual problem.

My real hope for '08 is that we can get out of the daze that so many of us seemed to be in in 2007. It's time to forget about Britney and Jamie Lynn and Lindsey and Rosie. It's time to remember that what's great about being a music fan is listening to great music, that what's great about being a movie fan is seeing great films. The national obsession with raising up and dragging down stars, laughing as they ruin their lives and acting surprised when the monsters that we've helped create act like monsters ... it has to stop. There are too many real and important issues right now that need attention. It would be a miracle if half the people who vote each week for American Idol vote in the next election, and it would be an even bigger miracle if a fraction of THOSE people actually educate themselves about the candidates and the issues at stake.

It's unbelievable to me how gadget-obsessed we were in 2007. Everywhere I look, people walk around with their heads down, typing away on their blackberries. People interrupt conversations with people right there in the room to chat on their cell phones. Everywhere you go, people can't wait to show off their latest iPhone or whatever, as if owning one was the ultimate measure of self-worth, and it's unbelievable how much money is being shelled out for such inordinantly expensive devices. People run to buy Wii's and X-Box 360's and then never use them, because the consoles were simply purchased for no other reason than to ensure possession of whatever the "it" thing is.

Well, it's time to get our collective heads out of the digital muck! Where are the people who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore? Those people seem to be getting fewer and fewer, and I'm not talking about the endless parade of talking heads on FOX News who spout off whatever ultra-conservative propoganda they think will get a rise out of people. I'm talking about average people who have passion, who have intelligence and social awareness beyond what they read on Perez Hilton. My generation in particular - it's amazing and depressing how few can talk smartly about politics, how few know to distinguish between quality films and TV and books and run-of-the-mill reality-show crap, how few have any real concerns beyond the latest party or i-gadget or celebrity gossip.

My hope for '08 is that we rise above all that. That we remain the generation that is smarter and more savvy than those before us, who revolutionizes communication and media with things like Facebook and MySpace and Wikipedia - but, also, that we remain passionate, aware, and driven. My hope is that our country gets out of Iraq but takes it to the would-be and wannabe terrorists, finally clamps down on climate change, and pools our scientific know-how to get away from foreign oil for good. Again, I'm optimistic. I think you sometimes have to fall hard to get back up again and start anew, and this might be our genuine chance for a fresh beginning.

So here's to 2008 - let's hope it's one for the books, in the best possible sense.

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