"I'm going to put my spacesuit on, next stop: Earth Orbit!!" tweeted NASA astronaut Mike Massimino the morning before his May shuttle launch. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey created the "micro-blogging" site where users publish 140-character tweets back in 2006 but it caught on in 2009, with accounts ballooning to an estimated 25 million. Anyone can tune into tweets from the likes of astronaut Massimino (the first to tweet from space) to President Barack Obama to Barham Salih, prime minister of Iraq's Kurdistan region ("Iraq's elections law passed, at long last!"). The site gained special notoriety through the course of the Iran elections, providing an outlet after the government shut down other media. Twitter even delayed critical site maintenance at the request of the U.S. State Department to keep Iranian lines of communication open.
Adam Young, the 23-year-old who forms the band Owl City, was one of millions to have a MySpace page, a site to post streaming music. His songs began as the insomnia-induced musings of a guy living in his parents' basement in Minnesota. He posted them online beginning in 2007 but drew a wide following this year, including a major label, Universal Records. It sponsored his latest compositions; one, "Fireflies," left the basement and hit the charts, rising to Billboard's No. 1 song in October (No. 1 also on iTunes). Now Young has about 280,000 friends on his MySpace page and is on tour playing to sell-out crowds. An outspoken Christian (though he's quick to say, not a "Christian artist"), Young lists among his influences John Piper and C.S. Lewis.
This year marks the 500th birthday of French theologian John Calvin, a figure in the Reformation who worked most of his life in Geneva, Switzerland, to create a "Protestant Rome" as well as to build healthy civic life. On cue, Time named the "new Calvinism" on its list of the top 10 ideas changing the world this year. As a man who shunned attention, Calvin called the term "Calvinism" an insult. Time characterized Calvinism this way: "an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination." Despite the cold reputation, a bevy of books surrounded the anniversary, including contemporary takes on Calvin's legacy, Calvin and the public square, and Calvin and market economics.
A young man named Jamal who survived the slums of Mumbai as an orphan rises to compete in the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It's not much of a spoiler to reveal that Jamal wins. The low-budget film, Slumdog Millionaire, shot with actors who had lived in the slums themselves, also scored an unlikely win at the 2009 Oscars, taking eight statuettes, including Best Picture and Best Director. The Academy's embrace of the Indian film signaled to many a bridge between Hollywood and Bollywood. Composer A.R. Rahman, who won two of the movie's Oscars, ended the year by securing two Grammy nominations for the movie score.
Some within India criticized British director Danny Boyle's portrayal of Mumbai-a city where the fabulously rich live alongside the deeply destitute-as full of stereotypes. But the film removed the cheerful veneer of Bollywood while incorporating its fairy tale stories. Americans revealed their cravings for a fairy tale story in the midst of the recession-and the film was an even bigger success at the box office worldwide: Made for $15 million, Slumdog has grossed over $377 million.
Box Office Top 10
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
- The Hangover
- The Twilight Saga: New Moon
- Star Trek
- Monsters Vs. Aliens
- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine
- Night at the Museum/Smithsonian