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’09 in Review

1 Jan

I usually do a very structured review of the year, with a best blog/film/record of the year etc. This year however I have decided against picking a categorised best of the year. I’m just going to vent and see what happens…

Cinema

Quite a few critics have lamented the movies of 2009. It’s true that there has been asome rubbish – Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, being one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It’s an absolute travesty that Transformers 2 has made almost $900m, meaning that another life-draining sequel is inevitable. But there have also been a handful of decent pictures too.

Pixar followed up the seminal Wall-E with another good movie. While Up lost its way towards the end, it remains a moving and at times breathtakingly beautiful piece of work. Pixar, along with the Cohen brothers, are consistently leading from the front.

As raucous buddy-movies go, I really enjoyed The Hangover. It’s over-the-top, but it’s seriously funny in places. Nice to see The Hangover is also one of the highest grossing films of the year – pulling in almost 500m clams.

Harry Potter was fine. Watchmen was an epic letdown. Wolverine was rubbish but I enjoyed it. I haven’t seen Avatar, In The Loop or Zombieland yet. And 2012 can go F itself.

As for Sci-Fi, I thought both District 9 and Star Trek were great.

Music

I don’t really buy much music anymore. I love a few bands like The Killers, Radiohead, Muse and The Arctic Monkeys, but in the main I listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

Anyway mainstream music is now the preserve of one man: Simon Cowell, who seems to manipulate the nation like a huge braindead marionette. Now richer than Scrooge McDuck, Cowell – sporting his trademark Botox-swollen face and G.I. Joe haircut – seems to be behind everything. It’s only a matter of time before Cowell builds a fortress in the clouds and we’re all forced to crawl on all-fours like bugs dong his evil bidding.

At the centre of Cowell’s insidious empire are the twin-behemoths, X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. X-Factor, which allows bedroom-bound popstar wannabes to to ruin your Saturday night, provides a desperately bored nation with a never-ending production line of wet crooners – many of whom seem to have severe personality disorders.

Britain’s Got Talent, on the other hand, takes hideous curiosities and turns them into national treasures. More Britons would recognise the Hairy Angel, Susan Boyle, than they would The Angel of The North – one of the few genuine cultural highlights of recent times.

The recent Rage Against the Machines Christmas Number One was of course an impressive display of guerrilla grassroots marketing, but really the whole story just highlights the predictability of British Music.

The X-Factor track was absolute rubbish, but it still got the number two spot. What sort of bottom-feeders bought that shit? The mass lobotomising of the British people is the great unreported story of the last decade, and it’s time Simon Cowell was brought to justice.

Politics

Watching the slow and painful premiership of Gordon Brown is now unbearable. While the backend of 2009 has offered a flicker of hope for Labour ranks, it’s inevitable that Labour will get an almighty hosing at the general election.

The electoral map is heavily stacked against the Tories, but it hard to imagine that David Cameron will be denied victory – even it that means being the dominant faction in a coalition.

I don’t believe for a minute that a Conservative government will be much good. That’s why it’s hilarious reading the Tory blogs. They’re selling a great sack of fail. David Cameron is not nearly good enough to run a corner shop, never mind the nation. He’s going to become the next PM because Labour is such a crock.

If the Liberal Democrats had any ideas, gumption or class, they’d be crucifying the Tories. Instead they are, as always, paralysed by opportunity and terrified of success.

Of course the Lib Dems don’t actually want to win the election. Having to give up their sniffy-aloofness would be too high a price to pay. No, the Lib Dems are perfectly happy with the status quo, which allows them ample time to sit about telling each other how fragrant their farts are.

Videogames

After last-years stellar year for gaming, 2009 was always going to be a bit of a letdown. That said; there have been really good games released this year.

The year’s monster hit has been Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which is brilliant. While none the individual levels quite match up to its predecessor’s highlights (the All Ghillied Up sniper level and the majestic opening few minutes of Charlie Don’t Surf), the overall campaign is better. My favourite part being the heart-pounding unarmed race across the Favella rooftops.

My criticisms of MW2 are that the multiplayer maps don’t offer the same varied experience of the first Modern Warfare game. Nothing quite betters the thrill of dominating on Ambush or Backlot. I like the Favella level and Invasion, but I’d love to be able to get a COD4 map-pack and bring my old favourites over to the new game.

The third MW2 game-type, Special-Ops, is really good and offers loads of re-play value. All together an outstanding, if not faultless, game.

One of my most played games of the year is the brilliant Xbox Arcade offering Trials HD, which is a beautifully realised game with a nod to the open-source motorbike classic Moto-X. You only control the trial-bike’s gas and the rider’s weight, but the experience is thrilling, addictive and taxing. My brother-in-law is completely besotted by the game.

I felt a bit let down by Halo ODST. Yeah it was moody and atmospheric, but it was also incredibly boring in places and the Halo 3 engine is incredibly dated now. Good to have all the multiplayer maps on one disk though.

Not being a PS3 owner I haven’t played Uncharted 2, but it’s the one game on the platform I’m desperate to play.

I’ve only played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2, which looks like more of the same – which is no bad thing! I hope to rattle through it over the next few days. I also got last year’s Fallout 3: Game of the Year edition for Christmas, so that’ll keep my busy.

Tech

Technology wise it’s been the year of the netbook. I love my Samsung NC10 (running Jolicloud OS) and often use it around the house instead of my MacBook Pro. I’m looking forward to the Chrome OS too.

I’ve become very attached to my new iPod Shuffle, which is used far more than my Touch. I just wish I could control the order my podcasts are played like I could on the old 2nd Gen Shuffle – maybe I just don’t know how to do it. They always play alphabetically.

Browser wise, Chrome has become my browser of choice on all my machines except the Macs. I need the Xmarks extension to sync bookmarks across my computers. On the Mac I use WebKit, but if the Chromium dev-build of Chrome was more robust, WebKit’s use would dwindle.

Phone-wise I’m still a BlackBerry man, that’s will change this year. Now the iPhone can gone multi-network expect sales to go crazy. I’m unsu
re between an Android phone and the iPhone, but I will get a touch-screen phone with a good browser.

TV

I don’t watch much TV, but the recent series of The Thick of It, and MadMen have both blown me away. I still like the I.T. Crowd and Peep Show is another favourite. Other than those two… Meh.

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Get well soon MCA

23 Jul

A quick post to wish Adam Yauch a full and speedy recovery from the cancer he’s been diagnosed with.

The Beastie Boys are hugely important to me. I’ve been a fan since the — absolutely fucking legendary — record Paul’s Boutique, which I got into when I was 11. I’ve flirted with a few different musical genres over the years, but the Beasties have always been a constant.

Below is Hey Ladies, from the aforementioned Paul’s Boutique and one of my favourite tracks. Enjoy. Peace.

Thought for the day

22 Mar

Why won’t talentless gobshite, Pete Doherty, just go away?

Off to work. Catch you tonight, dweebs.

New Musical Espresso :: The Charlatans – Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over

2 Jan

New Musical Espresso :: The Sugarcubes – Hit

2 Jan

Indi snobbery in vain

21 Dec

Ha! I knew all that Indi snobbery was misdirected and pathetic.

Jennie cuts to the heart of the Xmas number one ::

There is a meme extant on the interwebz at the moment to prevent the X-Factor winner getting to Christmas number one, on the grounds that many music fans are sick of Simon Cowell being musical dictator of this country. A lot of people are buying the Jeff Buckley version of Halleluiah as thier protest. What you may not realise is that this is doing EXACTLY what the Cowell-meister WANTS you to do – for he owns the rights to the Jeff Buckley version too. For my part, I am in on a different Liberal Conspiracy.

Way to stick it to the man, people!

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
N/A
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
iPhone
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
Fluid
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
Limmy
This blog has made me – figuratively – piss myself all year.

Best Politician
Barack Obama
Obviously.

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).