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Best of 2008

16 Dec

Lists, lists, lists. Everyone doing ’em, so why not me? The 2007 list is here.

Best Record
Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
Well I can’t say I’ve been blown away by any one record this year, but Kings of Leon are making very good music. I actually think – shock, horror! – that there are some good pop records in the charts at the moment, too.

Best Film
The Dark Knight
Well it was the year of the comic book movie. We had Iron Man, Hulk, Hell Boy II and Wanted (and those are just the ones off the top of my head). I’d say that Dark Knight wins out with Iron Man a close second. I also enjoyed Burn After Reading.

Best TV Show
The Wire – Series 5
The Wire is simply the best television programme ever made. Period.

Best Book
I’ve read no new fiction this year. I spent most of my time reading old John le Carré books and Graham Greene. I’ll have to remedy this in ’09.

Best Podcast
This American Life
This is probably the choice that has caused me to ponder most, as I listen to oodles of podcasts. But This American Life has provided the most memorable and beautiful moments. Subscribe, if you haven’t already. Worthy mentions to The Collings and Herrin Podcast [sic], Sarcastic Gamer and Football Weekly.

Best Radio Show
Adam & Joe
Funny and creative. Brilliant, basically.

Best Video Game
Gears of War 2
It’s been another cracking year for gaming. GTA4 was outstanding, Far Cry 2 was a surprisingly deep game, and Left 4 Dead (which I get for XMAS) looks great. Nothing quite topped GOW2 though. It’s awesome. The art style is incredible. The level design spectacular. And the weapons rock. Epic.

Best Gadget
I haven’t got one. I can’t quite give up my BlackBerry (or switch to O2). However the app-store has made the iPhone a serious proposition. The utility of the device – theoretical and realised – is astonishing. I will get one, eventually.

Best App
I have adored this app all year. I have run GMail and Google Reader constantly using Fluid and it has made life much easier. I’ve also been mega-impressed with Skitch.

Best Political Blog
Chicken Yoghurt
Justin has simply rocked this year. One of the best writers in the medium. Sadie’s Tavern would be a worthy mention too.

Best Non-political Blog
This blog has made me – figuratively – piss myself all year.

Best Politician
Barack Obama

Best Newspaper
The Guardian
It better watch its back. The Guardian has lost its way a little this year. It’s still the best paper, though.

Best sportsperson
MS Dhoni
Finally, someone’s made a team out of the Indians. They’ve always had the talent (although the current team is pretty darn hot).

More insight on Russia’s aggression in Georgia

15 Aug

A comment on Buchanan’s piece in the conservative site, Human Events ::

Buchanan is right (as usual).

I am a Russian linguist (or should I say ‘linguist of Russian’, being of British ancestry) and a student of Georgian. I know many on both sides of the conflict and read a wide variety of news sources. The fighting started on AUGUST SEVENTH, you can verify this EASILY by reading world media or at this point just google news searching by date. It began with a vicious Georgian encirclement of Tskhinvali with tanks and heavy air raids. This was disproportionate force against a small local militia (supported, nonetheless by the MAJORITY ethnic group). Russia invaded with tanks the next day, welcomed by the MAJORITY ethnic group.

The bombing of Gori and Poti and of airbases OUTSIDE OF Tbilisi were all aimed at military targets. Some missed and a number of civilians were killed. However deplorable this is, about 100 Georgian civilians is probably 10 times (Russia claims 20 times) fewer than Ossetian civilian casualties, about 22 times fewer than Serb civilian casualties to NATO bombing in 1999, and God only knows how many times fewer than civilian casualties of US armed forces (ahem, ‘coalition forces’) in Iraq.

Any slamming of Russia being an aggressor by those of you who support the far less justifiable acts of the USA in Iraq is laughable. The whole world is laughing, in fact…or crying, maybe.

Also, the US policy is hypocritical insofar as it lied about Serb ‘genocide’ while secretly funding and supplying the KLA in Albania to launch a virtual war on serbia, force it to sign a document agreeing to an occupation force in part of its country, and then, against all previous agreements, support its secession. Apparently, this is only alright when it is a NATO client state. This only supports the Russian view that NATO is not a defensive, but rather an AGGRESSIVE alliance, aimed only to create/support EU/US client states!!!!

Lastly, Georgia is not a democracy, not that that matters to most of you except for propagandistic purposes (since you oppose democracy in USA but support overthrowing people because they are ‘dictators’ if the president has an R next to his name). Have you heard of television company Imedi? It showed pictures of Georgian police brutally suppressing an opposition rally in late November. Saakashvili immediately sent riot police thugs without a warrant or anything to ransack the studio and destroy it. You can see youtube video of this, some translated into English. The director of the studio even ran up when the police arrived and took over the microphone to explain what was happening before the police turned off the camera. Right after this, Saakashvili declared martial law, then called a snap election, when only STATE media were operational. All the same, oppositionist exit polls showed a 20-something point discrepancy between the official results and their data, less than the discrepancy between US funded NGO exit polls and Shevardnadze’s data in 2003.

Stop fooling yourselves! America doesn’t want ‘democracies’, it wants client states. Perhaps Russia wants the same, but it is not but a fraction as capable of establishing this.

Some of you really want war, you love war, you don’t want peace. You don’t know about world politics, you just watch one channel and look at two or three websites over and over. You don’t know foreign languages, you don’t read or trust any world press. You are ready for any reason someone can give you to waive the flag and go fight and call everyone with a brain a traitor or a liberal. Buchanan is more conservative than most all of you, all he is spouting in foreign policy is Catholic just war doctrine! Is that too liberal for you?

No direct link, but the comment was by Thomas, Bergen, NORWAY@ Aug 15, 2008 @ 01:07 PM

Obviously it was derided by the mob…

more on the bbc

9 Jul

Sunder Katwala has posted on the BBC at LC, and in the comments the debate has become a libertarian vs. lefty affair. As someone who considers himself a liberal in the classical sense, I have a somewhat complex position on the Beeb, as I explain in my comment ::

I think it’s okay to be broadly libertarian (certainly being a civil libertarian who is in the main economically liberal), and not be tied to dogmatic interpretations of libertarianism.

My personal position is that the BBC has its fingers in too many pies, and prevents entrepreneurship in certain media sectors. Personally I think it can be a little dumbed down and extensive, but on the whole it has an important function.

Spend a few years travelling, and even if you have only a passing familiarity with the local language, you’ll observe that BBC content is fantastic in comparison to the absolute dog-shit most nations suffer.

I would like to see much greater dislocation of government and the BBC and a reduction in the BBC’s budget. Let me put it simply… Less Jonathan Ross and his astronomical salary and more foreign correspondents. Less Chris Moyles and his astronomical salary and more original radio drama.

The BBC is too populist, which means it encroaches on content happily paid for by advertising and subscription based providers. The BBC should be about empirical information, supporting young creatives, and education.

The BBC should not be starved of funding. It should go on a diet and re-address its constitutional remit. It shouldn’t be vying for every listener in a competitive market where it has an uncompetitive advantage. It should provide a cultural and informational bedrock which will continue to enrich the British experience.

Maybe this prevents me from being a fundamentalist libertarian, but I’m comfortable with that.

I think too many libertarians have a quasi-religious approach to all things, which utterly dismisses the nuances necessary for us all to exist together. Some things are simply worth it, regardless of their ideological conflict with any ‘ism. I believe in state-provided education. I also feel that, while the NHS is too extensive and unwieldy, there should be some healthcare provision for those that need it (with caveats tied to behaviour and cost/benefit). Look at private healthcare in the US. I know it’s hardly a libertarian model, the private sector is hardly efficient, is it? Admin costs in US healthcare dwarf our own.

As I stated in my comment, the BBC (and the NHS for that matter) is hardly a perfect interpretation, but there are some things that the private sector does appallingly. Look at the dross news coverage on network TV in America – where foreign bureau are being closed and correspondents are being sacked every year. Information gives a nation a comparative advantage, and I for one would like to see many parts of the BBC’s journalistic and cultural output continue long into the future. Even if that means I’m not a very good libertarian.

brown falters in japan

7 Jul

So Brown has found it difficult to persuade the new Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, to ease pressure on BP workers struggling with visas in the new Russia.

Shock. Horror.

Russia – like most of the oil-producing countries have already – wishes to release itself from the shackles of foreign oil conglomerates and take control of its own resources. While this may be bad form, considering the agreements it made following the collapse of the USSR, it is exactly the same path that most of the oil-rich nations have followed. However, Russia, unlike politically fragile nations such as those in the Middle East, has no reason to kowtow to the West and arrange special relationships with western governments that would go some way to re-balancing the relative trade-balances. It can – or feels it can – act independently. So it maintains frosty relations with the west.

Seriously, if we reject Russian oil and gas, where exactly are we going to go, and what options do we have?

None is the short-form answer.

Brown is between a rock and the proverbial hard place. And who, seriously, can blame the Russians? Okay, they probably don’t have the off-shore expertise that the Western companies have, but do they really want to surrender so much profit to foreign companies? No. And it’s an easy domestic victory to stick it to the companies who hope, so desperately, to profit hugely from the riches of Russia.

Russia probably should, if it has any desire for constructive diplomatic cooperation, hand over Andrei Lugovoy (a suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder), but then it has a commitment to never handing over Russian citizens to foreign powers (oh, for us Brits to enjoy such protection). Again another domestic political coup.

Only if British, and Western, politicians begin to understand and appreciate the current Russian body politik, will they ever hope to understand the motivations of the Russian state. Until then, I guess we’ll have to accept these heavily biased news headlines.


3 Jul

Just listened to Stephen Fry’s latest “podgram” on the future of the BBC. Inspired and soothed, I checked the comments from his blog. The following comment was found there ::

Britain should remember that it is a tragically tiny country that most people wouldn’t have ever heard of if it punched its natural weight. It is no longer known for its quality manufacturing, no longer the custodian of a massive empire and ever less relevant in global politics alongside the growing superpowers. One thing remains however, and that is Britain’s role as a cultural cornerstone for the English speaking world. Its programming in both radio and television has permeated the English speaking world from my father’s childhood bedroom in Cape Town to corners of Australia, India, Canada, the US and New Zealand. To think that the global reach and effect of British programming isn’t to Britain’s benefit is simply moronic. British comedy does more to win hearts and minds than any of its military follies.

The World Service is testament to the fact this was once widely understood. Has the ambition of global cultural relevance died with imperial ambition? I hope not.

The kernel of Stephen’s beautifully articulated speech (paraphrased) ::

The BBC is flowers on a roundabout x 1,000,000

A public excess, that is, without a second of doubt, worth it.

So true.

best of the year

18 Dec

Best of lists are part of Christmas. Well, seeing as I have the power to publish my own opinions, here are my topper picks for the year…

Best Record
The Killers – Sawdust
Ok, it’s a B-sides n rarities comp. But The Killers are simply so far ahead of anything else out there right now.

Best Film
The Bourne Ultimatum
A fantastic, pant-wetting finale to a brilliant trilogy. Paul Greengrass is the best director in the world right now. Period.

Best TV Show
South Park
Nothing is quite as smart or as funny (worthy mentions: QI and Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe were brilliant again this year).

Best Book
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Incomparable thrilling last book to a quite stunning series. Easly as good as the hype suggested.

Best Podcast
Guardian Unlimited’s Football Weekly.
This is exactly why MoTD is a waste of everyone’s time. Intelligent, witty, and much, much better than The Times’ Liverpool-obsessed effort. James Richardson is twice the presenter Lineker is (worthy mention: No Agenda with John C. Dvorak and Adam Curry).

Best Radio Show
Start the Week
Basically the Review section from the weekend’s broadsheets. With added Andrew Marr (worthy mention: Russell Brand).

Best Video Game
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Just, and I mean just ahead of Halo 3. The graphics and combat in COD4 are unmatched (worthy mention: other than Halo 3, I’d say Bioshock).

Best Gadget
XBOX 360
XBOX leads the way online. XBOX Live is unmatched, and the 360 offers far more quality games than either the Wii or PS3 (worthy mention: New iPod Nano – new form factor and new features. Now the true iPod classic).

Best App
Twitter is by-far the most enjoyable social networking site. It’s simple and genuinely co-operative. And I don’t agree with Dave Winer, simplicity is intrinsic to twitter’s appeal. Leave it alone.

Best Political Blog
A tricky one this, but septicisle’s analysis of the media – not to mention the abundant bile – is a joy to read (worthy mentions: Reading Mike Power is much better than scouring the net yourself. Mr. Eugenides still compels. And Ministry of Truth is still capable of brilliance).

Best Non-political Blog
Should be read everyday.

Best Politician
Alex Salmond
It’s hard not to admire the way the SNP leader has captured Holyrood. Even if he is an opportunist and a seditious git (worthy mentions: Vladimir Putin and David Cameron) (Note. this is not an endorsement).

Best Newspaper & Website
The Guardian
No other paper is quite as creative with formats and online offerings.

Best Magazine
Private Eye
Still completely essential (worthy mentions: The Week and Monocle).

Best sportsperson
Lewis Hamilton
I’m not into F1 at all. But you can’t argue – it was a phenomenal first year for the McClaren rookie (worthy mentions: Kaká, Kumar Sangakkara, and Christino Ronaldo were brilliant in 2007).

I may add to this list.


9 Oct

Sorry the blog is slow – been very busy, and looking after the kids today (not to mention trying to complete 3 pieces of copy).

Just been browsing for artist Willard Wigan (for a piece). This guy’s microscopic sculpture has to be seen to be believed.