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What Was Up With 2008?

Twenty years from now, when we’re looking back at the annals of world history, 2008 is bound to be a decisive note.

It was the year of the American economic meltdown. Also the first year a not-fully white president was elected into the White House. Consequently, also the final year of the Bush regime and perhaps the year the world started coming to grips with the 21st Century.

Here at home, with stories of hope and adventure and activism, local character’s celebrating distinction and overcoming depravation, 2008 was just as monumental in the pages of What’s Up.

Annual Year in Review through the pages of What’s Up — 12 months in 2,000 words, give or take.

JANUARY

Through the stories of insane adventurers traveling to the ends of the earth, a Bainbridge kid coming home with a major motion picture and TV personality Jeff Corwin coming to visit, we kicked off 2008 properly.

It all started simply enough, with What’s Up laughing into the new year along with the Edge Improv troupe. Then on Jan. 9, renowned adventuress Helen Thayer talked about her 81-day stroll across the Gobi desert with her husband in her book “Walking the Gobi.”

The next week, New York-by-way-of-Bainbridge filmmaker Bryan Gunnar Cole came home with his big major motion picture debut — “Day Zero” — starring Hollywood heavyweights Chris Kline and the Froto Baggins’ kid from the Lord of the Rings.

Also that week, seminal Bremerton punk band Neutralboy released their morbidly titled second CD “Everybody Dies,” while a beer-flavored book club started up on Bainbridge, and What’s Up learned about Expeditionary Artist Maria Coryell-Martin’s work documenting the Earth’s polar ice caps through en plein air sketches.

In the final two weeks of the first month of 2008, Seattle’s famed Total Experience Gospel Choir came to Bainbridge, as did high-altitude adventurer Ed Viesturs who spoke on his recently accomplished quest to summit the 14 highest peaks in the world, and so did the heartthrob TV host/environmental activist Jeff Corwin at a fundraiser for the island’s Kids Discover Museum.

FEBRUARY

Not to be outdone by its neighbors in North Kitsap, Bremerton’s Admiral Theatre brought Johnny Cash’s legendary backing band The Tennessee Three to town during the first week of February.

And What’s Up caught up with the last remaining original member Bob Wooton by cell phone as he was driving across Montana.

Also that week in Bremerton, the Collective Visions art gallery hosted its inaugural statewide juried art show. It was titled simply the CVG show, but was a monumental feat for the gallery, featuring more than 250 artists from 58 cities across the state, curated by the esteemed Susan Parke, on display for more than 1,000 sets of eyes and minds on the weekend. The late Bremerton artist Chuck Smart took Best of Show.

And as the month waned, What’s Up heralded the ceremonial opening of the area’s cycling season with coverage of the island’s annual Chilly Hilly.

MARCH

In like a lion (couldn’t resist), March brought indie rock legend — former Pedro the Lion frontman — David Bazan to town for an all ages show in Silverdale.

Also that month, a few young local music lions in Bremerton bought the old Charleston Theater on Callow Avenue and transformed it into a much-needed all ages music venue, with a bar, leading a small revolution on Callow, heralding “Bremerton Lives! The Charleston Lives! Bring it back in 2008!”

Bremerton visual artist (and former Pacific Avenue gallery owner) Don Wesley continued his Counting Series this month, marking five years of counting the death toll of the Iraq war with flocks of black starlings on five different skies of canvas. Wesley keeps counting, but he also closed down his gallery this month.

Also in March, What’s Up debuted the now regular Weekend Wrock, talked with bestselling author Robert Dugoni as well as Pat Hrabe — the creator of a comically Navy-themed series of webisodes called “Hey, Shipwreck.”

Plus, we found out from local gardeners how you can grow your own food in your backyard.

APRIL

We kicked off National Poetry Month unconventionally with wordless poetry (and a few conventional poems) in the pages of legendary Northwest photographer Mary Randlett’s book “Landscapes.”

In addition to all the poetically captured Northwest landscapes within, Randlett is also credited with documenting some of the most famous artists in the Northwest in the 1960s, including the poet Theodore Rothke and the artist Morris Graves and among others.

From talking with Randlett about those old legends, we went onto witness legends in the making as Death Cab for Cutie sold out Bremerton’s 1,000-plus capacity Admiral Theatre in a matter of minutes when Olympic High School alum Ben Gibbard and crew came home for the first show of their worldwide tour in support of “Narrow Stairs.”

Also this month, we talked with green author Doug Fine — who lives completely off the grid but was traveling through Bainbridge on a book tour in his vegetable oil-fueled diesel truck — as well as the co-founder of Bainbridge Performing Arts Louise Mills, human jazz purveyor Christian Swenson and an enigmatic man child named Pat Moriarity, who is making a living as a cartoonist in Port Orchard.

MAY

Speaking of Port Orchard, 2008 was another successful year of Seagull Calling at the town’s annual summer-signaling festival during the early days of May.

It was also another successful month for rock in Bremerton as the legendary Seattle band The Posies celebrated its 20th anniversary with a handful of Northwest shows, including a stop at the Winterland. Fiona Apple’s big sister Maude Maggart played the Admiral while Hollywood punkers Trashed Idols came to town as did the Canadian metal/alternative hybrid Pride Tiger.

And Kitsap’s own hard rock magnates Mos Generator completed their first ever European Tour with Texas band Blood of the Sun, returning to an fervent hometown crowd and an opening spot for Rush at the Gorge.

And What’s Up introduced the world to the subtle, yet stunningly witty homegrown film critic Jennifer Morris in The Screening Room.

JUNE

June kicked in with a nice dose of national news through The Screening Room’s local filter as theaters in Kitsap and abroad were abuzz with the release of the “Sex and the City” full-length feature film.

Also in that edition, we unleashed what would become an international online phenomenon, of sorts. Through a column about a pair of Rush tickets she gave to her husband as an anniversary present, What’s Up Editor Celeste Cornish’s musings on her dreamy affection for Neil Peart, paradoxically, inspired a few marriage proposals through e-mail.

Later that month, What’s Up also gave a nod to local brewmaster Don Spencer as Silverdale’s Silver City Brewery brought home four more North American Beer Awards, bringing the total to something like two dozen.

We also took a look at life through the eyes of a canine in author Garth Stein’s novel “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” and succumbed to our own overwhelming wanderlust and hankering for chasing cars, debuting the monthly column — Beyond Kitsap.

JULY

Following the plethora of parties for America on July 4 — including a patriotic art exhibit in Bremerton called “Paint Free or Die” — What’s Up traveled beyond the confines of Kitsap for the first time this month.

Following a weekend trip to the Olympic Music Festival on the north Olympic Peninsula, we returned with a riveting report on the virtues of Beethoven and riverside meditation — and a bunch of old people sitting around in a barn listening to classical music for hours.

Later in the month, Bainbridge author Jonathan Evison released his seminal debut novel “All About Lulu” which has since been climbing charts. The .357 String Band came to Bremerton, while What’s Up also took a look into the underground Art of Vandalism and began a unintentional three-part investigation into the mainstream cultural phenomenon that has become Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series — starting with the release of the fifth book “Breaking Dawn.”

Plus, an islander named Liz Gadbois puts together what she hopes could become a Bainbridge-style Bumbershoot. They call it “Farmstock.” Famous old jazz man Hadley Caliman headlining.

AUGUST

The dog days begin with a look into Seattle’s first professional sport — boat racing — as the fledgling summertime hydro races on Dyes Inlet in Seattle aim to keep the tradition alive, whilst almost all other Seattle-area professional sports teams are losing badly and the fate of the Sonics is being decided in court.

Bremerton’s Changing Scene Theatre Northwest keeps its Summerplay tradition of debuting regional written works alive, while the town of Port Orchard keeps the classics alive with classic cars and classic rock at the annual Cruz.

Also classic that month, Three Dog Night came to town for the Kitsap County Fair. And in doing its research, What’s Up takes an interview with estranged band member Chuck Negron while waiting for a response from the band’s remaining members.

We give the cover that week, instead, to seasoned local singer James Hunnicutt.

In other news: it was a festival-ridden month with at least one somewhere in the county every weekend ... and then some.

And What’s Up looks into the business woes and public virtue of independent film houses through a not-so-great summer for two very good local theaters.

SEPTEMBER

Aiming to top the excitement of August, What’s Up sets out at the beginning of September with the ambitious task of charting the county’s wireless internet hot spots.

Then the next week, while looking into how Bainbridge Dance Center instructors spend the off-season, What’s Up digs into a gem of a topical piece on a mounting, as-of-yet-almost-unknown cyber threat with Kingston-based USA Today tech reporter/author Byron Acohido.

The rest of the month is filled with dating advice from Humphrey Bogart onstage at the Jewel Box, global unity through short film at the Lynwood and across the world, and a look at how the Washington state Artist Trust can take a bit of the doom out of living as an artist.

OCTOBER

Speaking of doom, October was a big month in the world of What’s Up because halfway through it, we lost our longtime page designer Bronsyn Springer to a corporate restructuring amidst the now gripping economic crisis.

Springer spent more than five years at the helm of What’s Up cover and page design.

But we soldiered on through the stories of a local band who booked an entire national tour on its own, and a few of the many tales from the massively acclaimed Spokane author Sherman Alexie who came to Kitsap for two readings in one evening, in support of his newest New York Times Bestseller “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

What’s Up also meets another interesting author — formerly homeless Bremertonian Richard LeMeiux — whose book “Breakfast at Sally’s” set at the Bremerton Salvation Army is featured at venues throughout the county.

Later in the month, What’s Up unleashes a new writer Tara Lemm in Nature’s Kitchen, and the holidays take over as we dig into a three-part series on haunted houses throughout the county, including one of the best in the Northwest — The Scrapyard Massacre outside of Belfair.

NOVEMBER

At the other end of the county, deep in the woods of North Kitsap, in an expensive house in Indianola, sculptor Brian Berman is surprised with the opportunity to have one of his pieces shown at the Louvre in Paris this month.

What’s Up stops by to wish him well on our own impromptu version of the North Kitsap Art in the Woods studio tour.

Also in those North Kitsap woods, What’s Up investigates the American voting process through a mushroom hunt on the eve of the historic 2008 election with John Nesby and Dorian Gray, chefs from Poulsbo’s MorMor Bistro.

Later in the month, What’s Up goes even further north, beyond Kitsap, looking for vampires in the woods on the “Twilight Tour” in the second part of the serendipitous Twilight series. Later, we wash our hands of the Twilight-mania taking one last look with the “Twilight” movie in the Screening Room.

Also this month, we see the first ever collaboration between the Bremerton Symphony and Kitsap Opera, talk to Joe Buck Yourself and the first man known to have retraced the footsteps of Marco Polo. And the Gallery Fraga on Bainbridge Island closes its doors.

DECEMBER

This final month, and perhaps this entire year, could be shaped in a big way by what happens tonight on the last day of December. Then again, maybe not, either way, whatever happens, it’s been one hell of a year, and already a pretty good month.

December began for What’s Up through the eyes of former-real-estate-agent-turned-Silverdale-retailer at the RockIt Roost who ignored the recession and started up a business on Black Friday.

Later, we took two more trips into alternative worlds — first in that of children’s author/Bainbridge sophisticate George Shannon and then looking for life on Mars with Olympic College professor David Fong.

Also already this month, Canadian metal magnates 3 Inches of Blood came down to Bremerton from Vancouver, Portland Weezer tribute Say It Ain’t Weezer came up from Portland, Seattle band The Pharmacy bid Kitsap adieu, and we traveled, vicariously, to the peak of North America with Kitsap Mountaineers Mike and Elaine Raymond.

How can you possibly top that?

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