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A Million Little Cultural Pieces



February: YouTube founded. The rest is history, in downloaded bites.

March 18: Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda opens and flops. No longer able to afford filming in New York, city’s definitive director takes business to Europe.

April: Brangelina and TomKat (with Cruise’s near career-killing couch-jumping on Oprah in May) push tabloid news onto front pages of legit papers.

May: Failed actor turned gossip blogger Mario Lavandeira rechristens eight-month-old website Perez Hilton, creating snarky empire out of defaced celeb photos.

May 1: Family Guy—canceled by Fox in 2002—returns to schedule thanks to wildly profitable DVD sales. Critically reviled creator Seth MacFarlane now visionary genius.

July 20: 2005 is the new 1915, as TV dance craze kicks off with So You Think You Can Dance.

August 16: T-Pain’s single “I’m Sprung” introduces intentional misuse of pitch-correction software Auto-Tune as artistic technique; in next four years, practice goes from novelty to epidemic.

August 19: The 40-Year-Old Virgin opens, launching inescapable Apatow movie machine.

October 5: Stephenie Meyer’s first Twilight book published. Runaway best seller turns cultish vampire love into national fetish.

October 6: Oprah invites bad boy James Frey into her club and onto her show for rehab memoir, A Million Little Pieces. To be continued.

October 19: Composer Nico Muhly’s score for a performance piece of Strunk and White’s grammar manual introduces 24-year-old center of burgeoning classical-pop music scene.

November 3: John Doyle’s budget Sweeney Todd settles lingering argument about primacy of Stephen Sondheim; 75-year-old composer is Broadway’s hottest once again.

December 9: Brokeback Mountain shatters limited-release records in New York, eventually winning three Oscars. Homosexual cowboys and Heath Ledger get some respect.

December 31: A glimmer of hope for music industry: Ringtones have yielded $2 billion in sales by year’s end.


January 8: Smoking Gun website details author James Frey’s “Million Little Lies,” earning him second Oprah invite— not in a good way.

February 22: Peter Martins youth-enizes New York City Ballet, casting spunky Tiler Peck, 17, in his virtuosic Friandises; later, stages age-appropriate Romeo and Juliet.

April 29: Less than a year after debuting The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert cluster-bombs White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Political double-talk will never be the same.

May: Lil Wayne releases Dedication 2—creative peak of ridiculously prolific mix-tape run. “Best rapper alive” croaks now completely true.

June: In most bloated example of art-boom overspending, Neue Galerie drops $135 million on a Klimt.

June 28: Revised Freedom Tower design unveiled. Yet again, reality of real-estate development overwhelms aspiration.

July 28: Celebrity site (started in 2005) gets first hit of credibility by breaking news of Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest. By 2009, it’s a source as trusted as (egads!) newspapers.

September 7: Sacha Baron Cohen unleashes Borat at Toronto Film Festival. Arguments (bigoted? Exploitive? Classist?) begin—and end with Brüno in 2009.

September 12: Virginia Heffernan confirms that “lonelygirl15” is a stunt, starring actress Jessica Rose. Every viral video now assumed to be hoax.

September 12: With FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland lap the field, rewrite the rules, etc., etc. They haven’t topped it since—no one else has either.

October 11: Tina Fey’s 30 Rock premieres on NBC. High-low mash-up wins multiple Emmys, relatively few viewers, and a new career for Alec Baldwin.

November 6: Jersey Boys makes the jukebox musical okay for theater snobs, changing Broadway musicals forever.

November 19: Nintendo Wii’s radical, easy-to-use motion-sensitive controllers create whole new gaming demo: women.

December 10: As Wicked did for tweens, intelligent and sexy Spring Awakening does for teens: turns them into dollar signs for theater producers.

December 16: SNL sketch Dick in a Box instant sensation for comedy team of Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake (who is suddenly entertainment’s MVP).

December 22: Lower Broadway’s Tower Records closes. Official end of an era.


February 16: Britney Spears, decade’s tabloid tragedian, shaves head, a greater (if sadder) act of performance art than her kiss with Madonna at 2003 Music Video Awards.

April 24: One third of Granta’s “Best Young American Novelists” are immigrants or their children. Shteyngart, Lahiri, Díaz, and Lapcharoensap now dominate a field once ruled by Cheever and Updike.

June: Gallery explosion adds up to thickest-ever monthly issue of Artforum: 544 pages.

June 10: Open-ended Sopranos finale sparks national debate. He was whacked, right?

June 29: Steve Jobs is God, Part 2: iPhone hits streets, and for once How did I live without that? feels meaningful.

July 19: HBO reject Mad Men premieres on AMC, rebranding the network, reviving gray flannel suits, Cosmopolitan girls, and the besotted allure of early-sixties Manhattan.

September 19: CW debuts rabidly dissected, low-rated Gossip Girl. Watching in real time is so very twentieth century.

October 3: Patti Smith performs final concert at CBGB’s, which then becomes John Varvatos men’s store, selling $150 vintage concert tees. East Village gentrification complete.

October 10: Radiohead rush-releases In Rainbows in pay-what-you-want format; freaks everyone the hell out. Future of the industry or one-off gimmick?

October 16: Damien Hirst’s preserved shark washes up at Metropolitan Museum of Art— a symbolic moment for a risk-averse institution. Hirst’s career jumps the you-know-what.

November 19: Amazon releases clunky, odd Kindle, promising it will change how we read books. Two years and a redesign later, a third of Amazon’s books are for Kindle, device is ubiquitous, publishing in even deeper doo-doo.

December: The New Museum for Contemporary Art opens in its new home, cementing Bowery’s transformation from punk to chic. Jury still out on museum itself.

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