A year of war, camera phones and trucker caps

PERCEPTIONS By Steve Feitl: 2003 was year like any other filled with technology, tragedy and celebrity.

By: Steve Feitl
   It’s that time where many people across the nation look back at the events of the past year, in hopes of gaining some perspective on whether it was a "good year" or a "bad year."
   Lost in all these year-in-reviews is the fact that while the number at the top of the calendar increases every 365 days, very little else differentiates one year from another. Events repeat themselves over time; only the fine print changes.
   For example, each year has its "big event." This is the overall theme of newscasts for all 12 months; the subject that is debated at the office water cooler. For 2003, undoubtedly, that issue was the war in Iraq. From the ideological debates to the capture of Saddam Hussein, it was the polarizing event of the year. Without question, it was also the biggest.
   Every year has a big political story, as well. You’d think with nearly two handfuls of Democratic candidates vying for the right to challenge President Bush in 2004 that they would be the main political story. Yet, with a little over one year to the showdown for the White House, those presidential hopefuls were overshadowed by the unbelievable circus that crowned movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. I guess it qualified as the biggest comedy of 2003, as well.
   There’s also an economic trend each year. We all should have been thankful to see the economy inch upward in 2003. I even own shares of a three-digit stock again. Of course, that includes the decimal point after the first numeral.
   Unfortunately, there’s always a tragedy or two to speak of for every 12 months. February was a bad month in that regard. It started with the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, which took the lives of seven astronauts — from all accounts, rather unnecessarily. Then on Feb. 20, 100 people were killed at a fire at a Great White concert at The Station in Rhode Island —again, unnecessarily.
   But while each year has its sad moments, there are always a few "feel good" stories to help lift spirits. This past year, it was hard to top the tale of Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped nine months earlier, yet miraculously found safe on March 12. It was an unexpected, yet pleasant surprise.
   Elsewhere in the national spectrum, you can usually find one technological advancement that gains steam and becomes part of the mainstream each year. Thanks to affordable players and legal downloads, MP3s took a much larger share of the music scene in 2003.
   But for every example of progress, there’s usually another hot tech item that’s purpose is a little harder to define. In 2003, nothing confused me more than the advent of camera phones. Apparently, they are currently being used by tens of millions of people worldwide. I defy one of them to explain why to me.
   And what year would be complete without its share of celebrity news? A couple new stars rise from relative obscurity each year to become genuine stars. The 2003 newcomers included Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, who used "American Idol" to make a name for themselves on the Billboard pop music charts, while no one is quite sure what Paris Hilton did to become a star. Well, that’s not entirely true anymore. We do now know that she’s made at least one movie.
   Fashion trends evolve over time, but each year, there’s usually one style that returns from a previous era, for better or worse. For 2003, I have just three words for you: mesh trucker caps.
   And while that can’t be considered anything but a step back for mankind, what do all the rest of these aspects of the yearly equation mean for this country and the world?
   Well, it wasn’t a great year. And it wasn’t a terrible year either. It was just a year.
   Another year like all the others.
   You can bet 2004 will be one as well.
Steve Feitl is the managing editor of The Lawrence Ledger. He can be reached at sfeitl@pacpub.com