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The Year of Doom 

2008 started with one shocking death --- and ended with another, when Peter Roberts from Gus' Pub died December 29. In between, 2008 had some good, plenty of bad, and a whole lot of ugly.

January 22

Heath Ledger dies in New York City

Not since the mid-’90s deaths of Brandon Lee and River Phoenix has a hot young actor passed so unexpectedly. Shrouded by whispers that his method---playing the nihilistic Joker in the just-completed Batman movie The Dark Knight---had pushed him to the accidental prescription drug cocktail overdose, morbid curiosity and well-orchestrated hype may have drawn some to Jonathan and Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster on its July 18 opening. The massive popularity of the film went far beyond just celeb rubberneckers, fantasy geeks or action junkies. The Dark Knight brought the superhero genre of age, serving up an epic crime thriller laced with gritty realism unfamiliar in summer escapist fare. Ledger, now a posthumous Oscar nod lock for Best Supporting Actor, created a psychopath for the ages, guaranteeing the biggest box office and critical kudos of the year and making for a certified cultural phenomenon. ---Carsten Knox

January 26

Ozzy Osbourne plays Halifax

Paramedics stand by, but the worst that happens at the Metro Centre is Ozzy---who turned 60 in 2008---mooning the audience.

February 11

Amy Winehouse at the Grammys

Winehouse slips out of her grimy ballet slippers long enough to perform at the Grammys (beamed in via telecast), where she wins five trophies, before sliding into a cracked-up, emaciated, scabby state that makes Courtney Love look classy like Grace Kelly. There’s still hope for poor Winehouse: In 2008, Britney Spears covered her vah-jay-jay, grew in her hair, spent time with the kids and joined the Circus, her new album which debuted at number one in the States.

February 14

Grandmaster Flash at the Marquee

It began with Grandmaster Flash and never let up. Over the year, an endless stream of hip-hop legends stomped across the stages of the Marquee, the Cunard Centre and the Palace. Some came and delivered, like KRS-One, who also made local MCs swoon when he brought them onstage for a game of “pass the mic.” Some were underwhelming; crowds at the Pop Explosion got peeved as the GZA checked his Blackberry mid-set, while many paid $50 to see Nas perform a limp greatest-hits medley to a half-full Cunard Centre in May. Perhaps the best thing about all these high-profile shows is they give local MCs and DJs another place to play. One highlight was seeing our own DJ Cosmo step in to spin beats for Cadence Weapon, while Ghettosocks’ opening set for the GZA outdid the headliner. The newly released Classified/Josh Martinez/Skratch Bastid song “Goin Back To Hali” puts it best: “Hali always be home to dope hip-hop/where anything goes, I go to the shows.” Now if we could just get Kanye to quit the damn singing and start rapping again… ---Alison Lang

February 19

Fidel Castro retires

The Cuban revolutionary steps down after 49 years of aggravating America.

February 21

plastic becomes the new smoking

Upping its enviro cred with college-aged customers, Atlantic Superstore on Quinpool becomes the first local grocery store to completely ban plastic bags.

February 24

Ellen Page goes to the Oscars

Made a star by her role in Juno, Page was nominated for an Academy Award but loses to Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose.

April 5

food RIOT in Haiti

Beans. Rice. Bread. Wheat. Relatively simple foods, no? In April, however, they began to get complicated. Masses of people took to the streets in Haiti, Pakistan, Bangladesh and countless other countries to protest the skyrocketing prices of these staples. Experts lined up the causes for the surge. The use of ethanol in biofuels was one, tempting the ire of environmental groups. Some cited natural causes like droughts and floods destroying the crops of farmers. Most ominous was the suggestion that many third world countries are starting to “eat like North Americans” and develop a taste for imported products while local crops and farmers are faltering. It has led to some creative substitutions: In parts of West Africa, people have begun substituting ground cassava (a starchy, potato-like tuber) for wheat. A funky-tasting sandwich, perhaps, but it’s something to eat. As prices of grocery store meats, eggs and other imported items rise here in North America, perhaps it would behoove us to set an example and give a little more thought to what we’re eating in general---before the proverbial apple falls off the tree and kicks us in the ass. ---Alison Lang

April 13

Kenya forms a cabinet as part of power-sharing dealAmid this year’s coverage of Darfurian refugees and Congolese rebels, the world media continued following two African countries that are still fumbling with notions of democracy. In Kenya, the government attempted to smooth over 2007’s disputed elections and resulting clashes by forming a power-sharing agreement between the presidency and the opposition. But chumminess in the cabinet has done little to calm ordinary Kenyans who are still hiding out in fear of another riot. Meanwhile, there’s post-election Zimbabwe: ridiculous inflation; empty supermarkets; starvation; a mass exodus of skilled trade workers; nurses and doctors striking; rivers of sewage and, finally, a massive outbreak of cholera leaving families too terrified to properly mourn their dead. Still, Robert Mugabe remains in office after almost 30 years of megalomania, hooliganism and neglect. Although we wish the media would choose to follow more positive examples of African life, these examples are becoming too pervasive to ignore. And that’s sad. ---Alison Lang

May 3

dopey kid drives suv into ditch

Provincial community service minister Judy Streatch’s 17-year-old son goes for ice cream and crashes “her” government-leased SUV. Hilarity ensues.

May 4

Cyclone in Burma

Devastating cyclone hits Burma, true death toll still unknown.

May 13

QotSa plays Halifax

Queens of the Stone Age goes prehistoric at the Cunard Centre.

May 14

Polar bears become endangered

Nearly a year after a scientific review demonstrated that polar bears are at risk from global warming, and only after a court ordered it to stop dawdling, the US Interior Department for the first time gives legal protection to a species threatened by climate change. But the endangered species ruling specifically exempts oil and gas drilling precisely in the most critical Alaskan polar bear habitat. Environmentalists hope the designation will allow the US Environmental Protection Agency to begin regulating coal-fired electrical plants and other large greenhouse gas emitters, but interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne rejects that proposal out of hand, so the biggest effect of the change appears to be the ban on importing Canadian polar bear pelts. ---Tim Bousquet

June 4

Sidney Crosby loses Game Six

The young team captain and Cole Harbour resident takes his Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals, but the Pens can’t take the series from the Detroit Red Wings.

July 1

stuff white people like

Stuff White People Like blog published as book: thousands of copies tucked in reusable bags along with yoga mats, MacBooks and The Wire DVDs (see “R.I.P.”).

July 11

iPhone’s Canadian Debut

The Apple iPhone may be the closest thing we have to a Tricorder, but the gizmo of the gods still relies on standard cellphone service providers to provide such mundane functions as making a call. And Apple’s designated cellular partner in Canada, media leviathan Rogers, turned out to be less than a selling point. Rogers announced the prices of its iPhone plans June 27, and instantly the site (later renamed to became the rallying point for a whole blogosphere of scorn. In response, Rogers came out with a limited-time lower price, but the accusations of gouging stuck. Then, just days before the iPhone launch date, Canada’s other big cell providers introduced a new charge on text messaging. It was an unexpected display of greed that took heat off Rogers and deflated the nascent consumer revolution. ---Kyle Shaw

July 17

Twitter BECOMES top technology

For a text-messaging feed with the feel of vapidware, Twitter had a profound ’08. Traditional media outlets jumped on the bandwagon in a big way and tech industry watcher AlwaysOn put Twitter at the top of its list of 250 vital companies. Plus, compared with the holographic reporters CNN debuted in November, a Tweet has gravitas.

July 27

Mad Men season two premieres

In 2007 the cult was brewed: an original series on the lesser American cable network AMC mooted as the show to see. Created by Sopranos veteran Matthew Weiner, Mad Men reveals the guts of a Madison Avenue ad agency in the early ’60s, the men and women in that rigid patriarchal culture, writhing in rapidly decaying 1950s values. Wry humour slides in from the depiction of the work environment, the health, social and sexual politics, while the drama is in the deceit, the secrets and lies that all the characters hold and tell. Earning a raft of industry awards, the launch of the second season sent Mad Men overground. Don Draper---played by Jon Hamm---now stares out from magazine covers, an enigmatic, perennially unfaithful Gary Cooper-type. We wish we had some of his cool, if not his flaws. The revelations of both keep us watching. ---Carsten Knox

August 2

Halifax Harbour Opens for Swimming

August 3

And promptly closes again

Turns out rain storms can overload the new sewage treatment plant and lead to high bacteria levels in the harbour. Mayor Peter Kelly hoses down.

August 8

Start of the Beijing Olympics

In the days and weeks leading up to the big summer games in Beijing, the press was pretty much all bad: from the regular reminder of China’s human rights abuses along the torch relay route to the atmospheric soup that is the air in and around the Chinese capital. But once the games begin, the world is riveted by the athleticism on display. As was the fashion of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Canada surged late in the running, taking 18 medals, with a haul of 50 in September’s Paralympics. Nova Scotians participated in both, with rower Tracy Cameron winning bronze in August and sailor Paul Tingley and swimmer Chelsey Gotell bringing home multiple medals in September. Also notable from our perspective: Local software wizards Norex developed a medal-tracking widget in the first couple of days of Olympic competition that was a massive success, downloaded by hundreds of thousands of armchair Olympians by the games’ end. ---Carsten Knox

August 8

Russia invades Georgia

August 13

Tropic Thunder opens

Thanks to his aggressive enthusiasm for Scientology and marriage, over the last couple of years Tom Cruise watched his star-power crash faster than Goose’s F-14 in Top Gun. But it’s amazing what a fat suit and busting some ass-slapping dance moves can do for career resurrection, not to mention spawning one of Hollywood’s cutest toddlers. This year marked the 25th anniversary of Risky Business---check the awesomely cocky montage of highlights at to celebrate, the actor must have put Xenu back in the closet, for 2008-model Tom Cruise is calm, poised and, well, sadly normal. ---Sue Carter Flinn

August 17

Maple Leaf recalls killer cold cuts

August 23

our hearts will go on

Celine Dion originally scheduled to play the Common. We blew it.

August 24Local ants love Incredible PicnicThe Halifax Common is one of 11 sites around the province to host an “Incredible Picnic”---a celebration of Nova Scotian food (i.e. no listeria-tinged meat driven down from Maple Leaf in Ontario). The weather co-operates, and the picnic is a grand success; thousands of people enjoy locally grown food prepared by local chefs and vendors. What used to be an odd obsession among an obscure cult of 100-mile-diet wackos has exploded into mainstream desirability. Now, the best way to lose social cred is to buy New Zealand apples at a grocery store in the heart of Nova Scotia’s apple-growing district, or to serve up fish processed in Asia. On the other hand, all the right people shop at the farmers’ market and dine at one of the many locally sourced restaurants. Local farmers rejoice, and the earth takes a breather. ---Tim Bousquet

August 25

Cops brawl in Digby

Off-duty Halifax police driving a HPD van get in fisticuffs with two black men in Digby, sparking allegations of racism, and it’s all caught on a secret videotape. 

August 30

Keith urban Digs up the Common

September 15

World economy goes to shit

September 23

Harper talks of a gala recession

Defending Conservative cuts to arts funding, prime minister Stephen Harper describes artists as “a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers.”

September 25Sarah Palin meets Katie Couric

September 27

Elton John plays the Metro Centre

October 7

Iceland faces bankruptcy

If you were in Reykjavik this July, you never would have guessed this island country was headed towards economic devastation, as the streets filled with gorgeous young Icelanders shopping in designer boutiques and partying at the clubs until 5am.

October 14

Harper faces apathy

Stephen Harper wins federal election with support of 22 percent of registered voters.

October 30

Atlantic Fashion Week kicks off

Recognition of local fashion design went from zero to 100, as two competing modelling agencies (an unusual situation) claimed they were starting the region’s first fashion week. But it was Angela Sotiropoulos---a Dal costume studies grad, former designer and owner of City Models---who came out on top by keeping the event focus local and by showcasing the works of emerging NSCAD students. After multiple nights of shows highlighting incredible clothing by local designers such as Orphanage Clothing, Deux FM, Tuttle & Leonardo, Turbine Clothing, Michelle SaintOnge and more, our style glands are salivating. Word is there’s a spring fashion week in the works. ---Sue Carter Flinn

November 5

Barack Obama elected US president

November 8CBC’s Melissa Fung released

Reporting on refugees in Afghanistan, Fung was kidnapped and held for 28 days. Afterward, she tells CBC Radio she’s concerned about those refugees: “I still wish I could tell that story.”

November 14

Jimmy Melvin Jr. released

Aspiring screenwriters take note, the next Sopranos is on the number 20 bus route. The Melvins and the Marriotts are two criminal families that have been shooting (mostly missing) at each other for years and while we never condone violence---especially in front of a children’s hospital---this story is astonishing. After a few years in solitary confinement, Jimmy Melvin Jr. receives a “get out of jail free” card, flirts with a female reporter who giggles (“you look lovely, by the way”), then later gives a holler out that “there are no rats in the Melvin family.” Yes, this is the same Jimmy Melvin Jr. who years before told some cops he could help them find Jimmy Melvin Jr. and drove the unsuspecting officers around looking for himself. Honestly, you can’t write this shit. On December 13, the Chronicle-Herald ran an extensive criminal history of both families, with a list of offenses and retaliations dating back to 1988, so complicated you’d need a giant blackboard to figure it all out. (Boat chases! Cocaine! Crack houses! Firebombing! Shooting! Molotov Cocktails!) To sum up: Ricky, Billy, Jimmy, Teddy, Terry, Cory, Bo and B.J. are some bad-ass dudes whose story will no doubt end up as some CTV movie of the week. ---Sue Carter Flinn

November 23

Chinese Democracy released

To put Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy into perspective and to understand why Dr. Pepper offered free soda to every American to celebrate its release, in 1994 when Axl Rose and friends first started recording the album, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee and Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley. Fourteen years later, with reviews ranging from “astonishing” to “over-produced,” does anyone care?

November 28

Mumbai terrorized by hostage siege

November 29

Neil Young plays the Metro Centre

December 4

Prorogue wave hits OttawaGovernor General Michaëlle Jean suspends parliament, ending Stephane Dion’s dramatic bid to seize the prime minister’s chair.

December 6

Toll of canadian soldiers killed in AfghaNistan since 2002 hits 100

December 8

Stephane Dion resigns

Michael Ignatieff is named leader of the federal Liberal party two days later.

December 14

George W. Bush gets new pair of shoes

December 29

Peter Roberts dies

The Gus’ Pub bartender was 44. He worked at the bar for more than five years, and was an avid supporter and fan of the local music scene. He was a great bartender, talented artist and friend to many. Peter, we’ll miss you.

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