Despite another year of falling sales, declining readerships, and crashing stock markets, 2008 turned out to be one of the best years for culture I can ever remember. Kevin Martin, AKA The Bug, finally scored it big with his breathtaking London Zoo LP. Waltz with Bashir, an Israeli anti-war film with impeccable artistic credentials became one of the most talked about movies of the year–not just in Tel Aviv, but internationally. Meanwhile, two of my favorite philosophers, Slavoj Zizek and Jurgen Habermas, published their most important works in nearly two decades. An old Trotskyite friend of mine once said, "I’ll take biology over culture any day." It was 1994, and though the statement was made in jest, there was an undeniable air of seriousness to it. He’d finally gotten over Kurt Cobain killing himself when his favorite local band, Green Day, entered the top ten, exposing Berkeley’s precious punk scene to every uncaring mallrat in America. Needless to say, he couldn’t enjoy the contradiction, or find any remote value in it. Fourteen years later, I can’t help but feel as though the ‘we’ that once gave voice to such anxieties still managed to prevail. As if we ever hadn’t. My tenth year writing top ten lists, it seems like there’s never enough space to give credit where credit is rightfully due. So, this year, instead of adding length, I’m adding another media, specifically television and film. Why I didn’t do this in the past, I’m not so sure. I have always been a big movie-goer, and, even with just a measley TV adapter for our iMac, I still take in a lot of quality television as well. In no specific order, here is what caught my attention this year, and perhaps might merits yours, too. Music The Bug: London Zoo (Ninja Tune) Steinksi: What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective (Illegal Art) 2562: Aerial (Baked Goods) Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time All Stars: Dub I (Pressure Sounds) Flying Lotus: Los Angeles (Warp) Various Artists: Give Me Love: Songs of the Brokenhearted, Baghdad, 1925-29 (Honest Jons) Ezekiel Honig: Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band (Anticipate) Various Artists: 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground (Sublime Frequencies) Philip Jeck: Sand (Touch) Various Artists: Soundboy’s Gravestone Gets Desecrated by Vandals (Skull Disco) TV/Film Strangers, (Israel) directed by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv Listening Post, presented by Richard Gizbert (Al-Jazeera English) Gomorrah, (Italy) directed by Matteo Garrone Mosaic, produced by Jamal Dajani (Link TV) Under The Bombs, (France/Lebanon) directed by Philippe Aractingi World News America, hosted by Matt Frei (BBC America) You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, directed by Adam Sandler Hunger, (UK) directed by Steve McQueen Waltz with Bashir, (Israel) directed by Ari Folman The Baader-Meinhoff Complex, (Germany) directed by Uli Edel Books Slavoj Zizek: Violence (Picador) Mark LeVine: Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Three Rivers Press) Steven Lazarides: Outsiders: Art by People (Century) Gabriel Piterberg: The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel (Verso) Antonio Negri and Raf Valvola Scelsi: Goodbye Mr. Socialism (7 Stories Press) Jonathan Curiel: Al-America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots (New Press) Tony Judt: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Penguin) Allegra Stratton: Muhajababes: Meet the New Middle East: Young, Sexy, and Devout (Melville House) Jurgen Habermas: Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays (Polity Press)
Joel Schalit is Zeek‘s culture editor.