As another year draws to a close, it's a perfect time to reflect on all the triumphs and new beginnings that the last 12 months has brought. But where's the fun in that? Instead, let's take some time to say goodbye to some of the things that crapped out, gave up, fell apart, called it quits, or just plain failed in 2010.
10. Microsoft Kin
Microsoft may be the biggest computer company in history and Bill Gates may have enough money to buy every single thing in the world and still have enough left over to get a cab home, but you have to feel a little sorry for them this year. Not satisfied with being behind the curve with their underwhelming Zune media player, Microsoft tried this year to join the smartphone party after the fact with their youth-targeted Kin phones. After pouring close to a billion dollars and many years into the phone, Microsoft released the Kin to middling reviews and consumer shrugs. Then, after only 48 days on the market, they discontinued all production and focused on their Windows 7 model. Like the Zune before it, the Kin proved that Microsoft may have an unbeatable stranglehold on the PC market, but they really, really suck at making cool gadgets.
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For years, philosophers, theologians, and scientists have labored to answer the eternal question of exactly how long a pop group can ride the wave of a single hit. In 2010, Norwegian pop group a-ha has settled the issue once and for all and provided the world with a definitive answer. 25 years. After briefly conquering the music world with their synth-pop ode to bad grammar "Take On Me," a-ha was able to squeeze out 25 more years of a career until finally packing it in for good in 2010. It's perhaps a little unfair to say that they rode that one single for 15 years, but outside of their native Norway and a few other places around the world, nobody was buying their greatest hits albums or going to see them to hear their new stuff. Farewell a-ha, and may all your future endeavors be lovably grammatically incorrect!
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When Saturn first joined the crowded car company market in 1990, it heavily marketed itself as something different in the automotive game. Although it was always a part of GM, it rose to national prominence as an individual brand unlike the traditional guys. In a series of heavily-run commercials, Saturn promised low pressure sales from friendly, golf-shirted staff in clean, relaxing showrooms. Unlike regular car salesmen, Saturn staff made a solemn vow never to run over their own grandmothers or drown a sack of kittens in order to make a sale. This radical, non-grandmother-killing, non-kitten-drowning strategy to selling cars made Saturn a household name. Unfortunately, a lot more people enjoyed their philosophy and business practices than actually bought their cars. After several attempts to offload the brand on another company, GM shuttered Saturn for good in October.
7. Air America
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Tired of being crowded out of the talk radio landscape for years by right wing nutjobs, a group of left wing nutjobs decided in 2000 that their brand of partisan lunacy deserved a home on the airwaves. That home was Air America, the last bastion of commies, socialists, and everyone else who doesn't agree with Sean Hannity. Debuting with a splash, Air America had shows with big lefty stars like Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, and Ron Reagan. For the first few years, Air America was a success, coming narrowly close to challenging the right's dominance of the airwaves. Unfortunately (if you're on the left) or awesomely (if you're on the right) the network had a string of bad luck. Popular hosts like Al Franken bolted to save the nation, upper management had more turnover than a badly run Burger King, and the network wracked up debts in fine liberal tax-and-spend fashion. It all came to a head at the beginning of this year when the station folded for good.
6. The Hummer
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Back in 1992, before it became the symbol of everything horrible and misguided about the United States' role in the world, Iraq was a slam dunk. In a riveting display of technical superiority and precise military planning, the U.S.A. kicked ass all over the desert. Back at home, people saw the cool jets, missiles, and ships and felt proud of their country. But most of all, they wanted one of those wicked Humvees. Designed and built as a military vehicle that could go anywhere and do anything, it was only a matter of time before AM General (and later GM) marketed a civilian version called the Hummer. Taking advantage of the booming SUV market, Hummers gained popularity despite their massive size, terrible fuel economy, and spotty safety records. Eventually, bad press and poor sales caught up with the giant gas guzzlers and the cars became a symbol for America's reliance on foreign oil and lack of environmental awareness. Isn't it ironic that the vehicle that helped America in its war for oil became a symbol for its problematic relationship to the very same substance? Ironic, or totally fitting.
5. The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien
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Poor, poor Conan O'Brien. Did anyone else get so royally screwed over in 2010 as everyone's favorite redheaded talk show host? After taking over the storied Tonight Show this year from Jay Leno, Conan stumbled to build an audience as NBC did everything in its power to ensure anyone with any measure of taste had long since turned off their network by the time O'Brien's show came on. Unable to believe that their meddling was causing the problem, NBC decided to meddle some more and came up with a cockamamie plan to shift their whole late night schedule back a half hour and give Leno the first slot. O'Brien balked, accepted a huge amount of money to walk away, and NBC kindly asked the viewers to forget that anything had happened. Leno went back to making jokes about small town newspapers, only now he has O'Brien as competition.
4. Giants Stadium
From 1976 until this year, Giants Stadium served as the home field of the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The first professional field in New Jersey, it was a massive success for the first 10 years of its operation. Unlike many arenas, Giants Stadium actually made money. And it gave New Jersey residents something to be proud of besides their awesome pizza slices, pollution, and mobsters. Over the years, the stadium played host to all Giants and Jets home games, concerts by all the biggest names is music, and even welcomed its second highest audience (a U2 concert was the biggest) for a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. It also was home for New York and New Jersey's teams in the WFAL, XFL, and a couple other crappy upstart leagues. It even hosted Pele and the New York Cosmos, although no one gives a crap about soccer. Despite its initial success and all the sporting and entertainment history, Giants Stadium was heavily in debt and forced to close this year. But don't worry, it left a wonderful legacy of athletics and music for the residents of New Jersey to cherish for years. Unfortunately it also left a $13 debt for every man, woman, and child in the state.
3. Hollywood Video
One day in the not so distant future, we'll tell our grandchildren about the crazy days when people actually had to leave the house and interact with other human beings to watch their favorite movies. By the fireside we'll spin fantastic tales of driving to the video store, walking down a massive wall of new releases, and trying not to kill all the idiots in the store who wouldn't shut up about how much they loved Sandra Bullock movies. Fortunately for our grandchildren, they'll never need to experience the living hell that video and DVD rental was. Unfortunately for Hollywood Video, that's kind of how they made their living. One of the biggest video rental chains in the country, Hollywood Video was second only to industry giant Blockbuster in the rental game. Until this year, that is. In May, Hollywood Video succumbed to the undeniable forces of progress and filed for bankruptcy. Unable to compete with superior Internet services like Netflix and illegal piracy, they closed their stores, sold off their assets, got drunk, and went to the local Blockbuster and told those self-righteous jerks to enjoy their victory, because they're next!
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2010 wasn't a good year for cars. Started all the way back in 1926, Pontiac, long a division of GM, was responsible for some of the great American cars of the 20th century. Classic models like the Bonneville, the GTO, the Grand Prix, and last but definitely not least, the scourge of sheriffs all over the south and friend to honest bootleggers everywhere, the Firebird Trans-Am made Pontiac a household name and legitimate player in the American automobile saga. Alas, like so many once great institutions, Pontiac gradually made worse and worse cars, lost market share, and eventually staggered along a shell of its former self for a few years until someone had the decency to finally pull the plug. The writing had been on the wall for Pontiac for a while, but it didn't help matters when the government ordered GM to eliminate brands as part of its bailout of the auto industry. Somewhere on a dusty Southern backroad, a handsome man with a mustache is leaning up against his Trans-Am, cracking open a can of Coors, and crying his eyes out.
1. Sony Walkman
a-ha weren't the only thing that should have been discontinued 10 years ago to finally give in and face reality this year. After over 20 years of production, Sony pulled the last feeding tube from its venerable Walkman this year. Not the CD-playing ones, the cassette ones. Yes, in 2010, you could still buy a cassette-playing Walkman. Although only available in Asia and primarily marketed to language learners and people who missed the last 20 years of personal stereo technology, sales puttered along strongly enough to keep the player in production while the rest of the world used disc players, and even survived mp3 players changing the market for good. The Sony Cassette Walkman probably should've been deep-sixed years ago, but still, wasn't it nice to know that somewhere in 2010 people were still killing their batteries fast forwarding a well-worn copy of a Huey Lewis tape?