It was a year to remember as stock markets raced back into fancy while corporate shenanigans were frowned upon quickly. Let's dive in, shall we?

Steve Case resigns as chairman of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX). He comes home only to find a disc from America Online in the mail, asking him to reconsider his decision to leave. In exchange for giving AOL a second chance, he would be entitled to 1,000 hours and 45 days for free.

With $43 billion in cash and world domination becoming an unaffordable option given the short leash of antitrust watchdogs, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) finally caves in to income investors and initiates a dividend policy. The payout proves paltry -- less than what the company's idle cash would earn in interest -- but it's a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the dividend checks come preloaded with Internet Explorer and, and they can only be cashed at First Bank of Ballmer.

Just when it seemed as if the move to expense stock options was a done deal, lawmakers in technology-rich California districts threaten to vote against the move. Because technology companies are common users of stock options as compensation, they stood to lose those phantom profits that had been built into their helium-filled income statements if options were to be properly expensed. Would these same lawmakers approve to discount absentee ballots in their favor because they weren't technically cast on Election Day? Not likely.

Not to be outdone, the mayor of Seattle offers to settle all of his city's debt with Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) gift cards and double lattes.

Drug makers used to be all-weather stocks. Then someone cut holes in their ponchos. Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) restates its earnings, just days after Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP) lowered its annual profit forecast. Wordsmiths note that plough is a variant of the word plow -- a cutting device -- while a "squib" kick is a softly booted football. Who says that words have no meaning these days?

No sooner had AMR (NYSE:AMR) CEO Don Canty won some serious salary concessions from various union groups for his beleaguered airline than it was revealed that he had arranged for meaty bonus packages for seven senior executives. This came on the heels of Delta (NYSE:DAL) chief Leo Mullin laying off 20% of his airline's workforce and slashing pensions while beefing up bankruptcy-protected pensions for top officers. The reason? They wanted to give corporate leaders an incentive to stay with the company. Oh, please!

Trust me, these folks weren't going anywhere. You think that jobs paying in the high six-figures are being doled out to people with airline industry experience? Dream on. That's a resume killer if there ever was one. You will never hear "We have decided to hire someone to turn this company around, he has done some great things with a debt-laden major air carrier." Canty and Mullin were rightfully blasted for their actions and eventually stepped down. So, where exactly is the long list of companies looking to hire either one?

All the nudes that's fit to print? Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) banned the sale of three magazines due to their risqué covers. While FHM, Maxim, and Stuff are devoid of actual nudity, the alluring photography of scantily clad women was judged to be too lewd for the sophisticated Wal-Mart crowd who prefer their cleavage blurred out on Jerry Springer bead tossings.

Irony had a good laugh later in the year when Haitian and Hispanic protesters urged the chain to stop selling Take-Two Interactive's (NASDAQ:TTWO) Grand Theft Auto: Vice City video game on the grounds that it condoned violence toward minority groups and lacked moral backbone. Taking Take-Two's lead, Wal-Mart shot them down. Then Wal-Mart went on to do something really offensive -- it started selling Gigli on video and DVD over the holidays.

Scholastic (NASDAQ:SCHL) smiles as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix sells five million copies on the first day of the book's release. Children begin to devour the 870-page epic, only to come to the shocking conclusion that a central character is killed off. That character? Sleep.

Sam Waksal, dethroned head of ImClone Systems (NASDAQ:IMCL), begins to serve a seven-year jail sentence for insider trading. A prison official was later charged for tipping off Waksal's eventual cellmates so that they would be able to hike the prices of cigarettes and caked files for "the rich guy moving in."

The roughed-up music industry is stoked to learn that peer-to-peer song trading piracy is crushed in certain pockets of the Northeast. It then realizes that it was only due to the temporary yet far-reaching historic blackout.

Enron's former treasurer becomes the first company official to be sentenced to jail. Ben Glisan Jr. was remorseful as he was whisked away to start his five-year sentence. He can't believe that Waksal wants to charge him $40 for a pack of Camel Lights.

After weeks of public outrage over his lavish salary, New York Stock Exchange CEO Dick Grasso steps down. An astonishing $140 million richer, it just goes to show that you can make some serious money playing the stock market.

Days before its official passing, U.S. District Court Judge Lee West threatens to derail the passing of the national Do Not Call List. His home number is, in all likelihood, unlisted.

Vivendi (NYSE:V) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) agree to combine Vivendi's stateside entertainment assets with those of GE's NBC. During negotiations, GE becomes so repulsed by Vivendi's disgusting balance sheet that NBC plans to air it as part of the gross-out challenge on an upcoming episode of Fear Factor.

A jury is shown footage of the $2 million toga birthday partyTyco's (NYSE:TYC) fallen CEO Dennis Kozlowski threw for his wife in Sardinia. The soiree was partly billed to Tyco as a business expense along with items such as a $15,000 umbrella stand, $6,000 shower curtains, and every infomercial product that Ronco's Ron Popeil or K-tel have ever produced. Glisan starts loading up on $40 smokes, ready to mark them up for Kozlowski.

Cell phone users rejoice at the start of wireless portability. Now customers can switch cellular service providers and take their phone numbers with them. With that move, folks clamor to buy one-way tickets from the frying pan and into the fire. When it comes to choosing your next carrier, the industry's notorious reputation for trashy service brings a new meaning to the phrase "pick of the litter."

The market comes to a close with the major indices showing healthy double-digit gains. The picks in Stocks 2003 gain an average of 39% and send savvy investors scrambling to pick up advance copies of Stocks 2004. Misguided mutual fund companies that earlier in the year cheated investors by profiting from late trading and market timing, let out a collective "D'oh!" The market is finally giving results-driven individuals tangible reasons to put money back into the market, yet the bad funds have irreparably shattered that trust. Errant managers beg for a shot at redemption. Shareowners comply -- with the redemption.

The year comes to a close. One Fool decides to kick off the New Year by taking a look back.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz doesn't know where the time goes, but that may be because he doesn't wear a watch. He will admit to lifting the idea of doing a lighthearted look at 2003 from the wittiest columnist alive -- Dave Barry -- who Rick had the pleasure of parking next to earlier this month at a University of Miami Hurricanes basketball game. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.