Review 2003 review.

About Review 2003 trundled around and so the annual tradition began of filling December on this blog with some kind of seasonal thematic series of blogs on the same or disparate topics with the text supplied by me or reader or invited guest bloggers. As the introduction and epilogue to that short series of posts explain, in 2003 I decided that I’d email people who’s work I’d mentioned on the blog that year and ask them five questions about their year. I was young, na├»ve and blogging was still a bit voguish and what amounted to the social media of the day outside of the various IRCs, LiveJournal, email and the comments sections of community blogs, so I was fairly confident that someone would agree. Go and read the whole thing now, it’s seven days worth but it shouldn't take you too long.

I think it’s ok now to unveil the weird secrecy of that epilogue and explain that the first person or organisation I emailed was Weta Workshop in the hopes that Peter Jackson would reply not expecting that he would. He didn’t. But I continued and as you can see the reply list contains some astonishing people, including several authors one of whom would go on to write for the revival of Doctor Who, an Oscar and Emmy award nominated and winnings filmmakers, musicians, critics and plenty of really good friends. Which was and is frankly amazing and as that epilogue intimates what was supposed to be an attempt to save me from writing on the blog too much over that festive period turned into an all consuming passion as I kept contacting people and then to my astonishment receiving a reply.

My initial plan for this review was to email all of these people again (I still have the original replies) with five more questions one of which was to ask them what they thought of the answers they gave ten years ago but given the increased profile of some of them and the fact that there are few people in there I’ve not spoken to in years anyway, I felt it best not to go around pesteriing them. I also thought about repeating the exercise with a whole new crop of people but blogging isn’t a voguish as it once was so the whole notion would have looked a bit weird, plus I remember how much work went into it last time and after everything which has gone on this year I decided that a few days of pre-writing the month’s posts at the beginning of December would be more than enough which is roughly how the Not The Doctor thing happened. Give or take a week.

It would equally be unfair of me to stand in judgement and comment on other people’s answers even after a decade. What I will say is that as should be the case they’re a bit of a time capsule of what the world was like ten years ago both in a big picture way and also in the detail of people’s lives. In other words, the Bush references and mentions of film franchises like The Matrix which were still in-stream. Weird to think that here we are again in the middle of a Tolkien trilogy. Some of the predictions for 2004 are amazingly prescient even if some of them took a few more years to come about, especially VOD which has now practically destroyed the physical media market and how television is watched now that the technology has caught up.

None of which is to say I can’t stand in judgement on my own answers which I’ll reproduce below as well for ease. As I’ve just said to a previous participant on Twitter, glancing through these made my brain split open and there are a couple of details I completely forgotten about probably for a very good reason. Whatever you do, and this is solid gold advice, don’t keep a blog for over ten years. For comparison, if I had to answer the questions for this year instead the results would probably be that I woke up from my hernia operation, my surgeon and my hernia operation, realising that having a hernia wasn’t the end of the world, the way my body healed after the hernia operation and that hopefully 2014 won’t include another hernia or anything else which requires an operation, fingers crossed. Anyway, onward:

What was the best thing which happened to you in 2003?
At the beginning of the year I didn't dream that my answer to a question like that would be a trip to Leeds. I'd all planned to go to London, finally see Shakespeare's Globe and Tate Britain and see a movie at the Odeon Leicester Square. But weird finances caused a change in those plans. But I'd never really gotten over my time at University, forever thinking about how I could have done better, enjoyed the experience more, have more stories to tell. But ten years later, standing in the university hall and outside the two houses that followed I realized that actually it was exactly what it should have been, for me. If it had been all lovely I might have left with an inability to see the big picture and would missed those pieces I really did enjoy. I might chide myself for not going out on this night or that night, or following my heart instead of my head at other times, but perhaps what followed could have scared me away from taking the risks I took later as a reaction to my timidness then and missed these later experiences. I mostly learnt that everything balances itself out .... eventually ....
That it’s ten years since I revisited Leeds is inconceivable and not just because of my fond memories of the visit but because it also means its twenty years since I was an undergraduate. Now, of course, I wonder if I would have made the trip at all thanks to the wonders of Google Street Maps. I’d like to think I would and actually have considered a repeat but having glanced at Google Street Maps realised that everywhere still pretty much looks the same. I would eventually see Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Britain and actually see two movies at the BFI in 2009 and would return to university in 2005 where I made many of the same mistakes, also didn’t feel like I’d made the most of the experience (this time due to having to commute) and also entered a post academia state of career uncertainty and miasma which continues to this day. I’ve been trying to remember if something else was actually the best thing which happen in 2003 since this seems like a placeholder answer but my mind’s gone blank.

In general, which one thing in 2003 will have the most lasting consequences?
My life laundry. I was always something of a hoarder. Going through the process of getting rid of so much stuff was very cathartic, if not actually relaxing. But working out which videos and books to get rid of meant I was at times justifying my taste in something. In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby writes about how you're more than what you like. Effectively what you like is not what you're like. Did having every series of Star Trek on video define who I was in some way and did the wholesale ditching of the lot via twenty handy bin bags have some other symbolism? I finally decided not to think about it and just enjoy all the space I suddenly had about the place.
Yes, which lasted about six months and then the space began to be filled again with other stuff so the consequences didn’t in fact last too long. Dumping all of that television was cathartic and as it turned out something we’d all end up doing with the advent of dvd boxsets which take up for less space on the shelves and subscriptions to Lovefilm and Netflix. But the Star Trek space is now filled with Doctor Who and the books that went have been replaced with the Shakespeare. Perhaps I should go back through the remaining VHSs and be even more ruthless especially since I’ve not looked at most of them in years, probably since I had the 2003 clearout in fact. Oh and the real answer would have been working at Liverpool Direct because that’s what led to me saving to go back to university, though to be fair the lasting consequences of that are also ambiguous.

Who was the best new person you met in 2003 and what was the first thing you talked about?
It occurs to me that all of us probably meet many interesting people everyday. We sit next to them on the bus or train, we walk past them on our way to work, they sell us our lunch or see them in the lift at work. But we never have time to stop and talk, always rushing about, probably missing out on learning something new or making a brilliant new friend. But to choose that smashing girl who works in Boots would be missing the point. So instead I'll say Nancy from my World Music course, because she's studying accountancy by day so that she can help those who have none when she graduates, which sounds inspiring to me.
That smashing girl who worked in Boots!. I loved her. Or rather fancied her quite a lot, always disappointed when she wasn’t working and always taking my meal deal through her till when she was working. She disappeared after a while, I assumed because she’d moved on, and I last saw her standing outside Chester Station where we shared a smile of recognition though I expect she was just being nice and hadn’t the faintest idea who I was. Notice how back then this blog was rather more personal then than it is now? Oh the wonders hidden in these archives if you’re brave enough to look. The last but one time I saw Nancy was after bumping into her at a screening Y Tu Mamma Tambien at the Box in FACT Liverpool and then going for an awkward coffee at the recently opened and still a novelty Starbucks on Bold Street with her afterwards. I wonder if Nancy was eventually able to help those without accountancy. I think you can see why this blog’s rarely personal now.

Describe the one thing in 2003 which made you stop in your tracks and say under your breath 'That's so cool...'
Of course there are a hundred things which could be listed here, from the stella improvement in CG special effects to the alarm clock I got for Christmas which projects the time onto the ceiling so you can see what time you're being woken up without even moving your head. But overall in terms of how it's made life bareable since March, it would be the FACT centre in Liverpool. Here is an arts centre and cinema which I never thought I would see in my city. While I haven't loved every exhibition which has appeared in the gallery spaces, they have at least been consistently interesting, trying something new. Where else, for example, could you find a piece in which an artist had edited together similar moments from throughout Starsky and Hutch so that you could pull a VCD off the shelf and watch every time Hutch burst into tears or somebody drove through some boxes. Just as I'd all but given up seeing anything not created outside Hollywood, three weeks after it opened I was watching a Kazakhstani film about a folk hero. Despite a stodgy patch when the three main screens closed for business it's consistently tried to offer the kind of programme which you'd expect at a London Cinema, a good mix of populist and art house. I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King there the other day with their THX approved sound system, which sounds populist, until you consider that on the small screens they're showing Noi Albinoi about a drop-out from an Icelandic village who dreams of escaping from his remote fjord with the girl from the filling station, as well as seasons of the work of both Jacqui Tati and Yasujiro Ozu. This is a love affair which has only just begun.
The clock lasted about a week before the LCD display broke removing its distinguishing feature. FACT’s still there thank goodness, which meant I can still see films if I’m desperate with a half decent audience (apart from the Dorito muncher I had to cope with during the quiet moments in Gravity). The Starsky and Hutch piece description is a reference to Jennifer & Kevin McCoy’s Every Shot Every Episode which sounds like it invented what we now call supercuts and features ironically in this YouTube video  and has various catalogue pages here,  here and here, though sadly, if understandably, the actually videos themselves aren’t available. It’s fair to say that after the Film Council funding ended after a year the choices became a bit more populist than Kazakhstani and Icelandic cinema but they do still show the odd thing which is out on tour and offer some repertory cinema though times are hard and that’s true of cinemas in general, even in London. People are just as happy to watch world cinema at home and the variety is staggering and Noi Albinoi is still very much available even if I don’t remember a second of it so can't tell you if it is any good.

What do you predict for 2004?
First of all I want to look back at my five predictions for 2003. Out of the following list, which one do you think would be the one most likely to happen?

*Eighth season of Buffy, with or with Buffy
*New TV series of Doctor Who
*The more obscure Shakespeare plays get movie versions (especially 'Measure for Measure')
*Less talk of the past, more of the future

Who would have thought the real joke on the list, the one about a Timelord would turn out to be the biggest success? At the start of the year it wasn't clear that Angel would be carrying on that universe - Eliza Druska had yet to find her Tru Calling instead of continuing the franchise in Faith and as far as we knew Alison Hannigan was interested in Willow. Glancing at the Internet Movie Database, there where two new Othellos, and a Hamlet in German. Classic TV showed a seventy year old version of As You Like It in smudgy vision, but that's not really the same thing. All everyone seemed to do all year was talk about the past - it was a year of anniversaries and celebrations of one form or another, which is why this review seems to have fitted in so well. I did have a naive hope that the world wouldn't go completely mad but of course it did, as the responses in this article have proved. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But I don't want to continue on a pessimistic note, so here are my predictions for 2004.

*A Starbucks will open closer to work
*More crossover in music across Europe. French, Spanish and German music will start to appear in our pop charts as the kids finally start looking for something different.
*There will be new governments in the UK and US. Neither will actually be much better or worse than what we have now.
*A second e-commerce boom will begin, with entrepreneurs learning from the mistakes of the past
*Something really extraordinary is going to happen with long lasting consequences effecting all mankind in a good way for a change

I know I'm hedging my bets with that last one. But peace didn't happen last time so why not try and go one better? We'll see at the end of 2004.
Actually most of these predictions, from both years, came true eventually to some extent. There was an Eighth season of Buffy eventually in comic form come 2007. Doctor Who etc. There’s a film version of Cymbeline starring Ethan Hawke due out next year (still waiting on Measure for Measure). “Less talk of the past, more of the future” was foolish but not as foolish as predicting "peace". A Starbucks has opened close to work. French, Spanish and German music have appeared in the British pop charts but not in the way I imagined – it’s simply that we’ve appropriated producers and styles of music though the US influence is still the most powerful. A few new governments since 2003 and well, in a word, fuck. E-commerce (which sounds about as archaic a term now as twerking will be in about ten years) has gone into overdrive and taken over the world. Twitter happened and that was a thing though I ducked out of choosing anything from 2004 the following year.  See you next year.

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