Review 2005


When Pete wrote about the brain-bulging awesomeness of New York City, the one life-altering factor that he didn't mention was the baby that we conceived there (with apologies to Stuart & Krissa's spare bedroom). This was of course entirely unplanned and accidental, but when we miscarried at 7 weeks, our destiny was fully focused on the fact that we definitely, definitely, wanted another go.

So at the earliest possible opportunity, we conceived again, and for two months now we have been sitting on this brilliant burning fact, unable to tell anyone except where absolutely necessary (to explain the debilitating effects of all-day morning sickness, for example). It's such an exciting thing, and we can't tell anyone. These have been the longest weeks ever, waiting to reach the magical 12-week mark, when the risk of miscarriage diminishes significantly, and we can relax and start to enjoy it.

This morning - exactly 12 weeks in - we had our first scan. The main purpose of this was to establish the statistically likelihood of having a baby with Down's Syndrome; but we got bloody good value for our fee, including a DVD to bore the grandparents-to-be with at christmas. We had a full tour of the baby, showing that it had two legs, two arms, and two halves of a brain. It seemed to be sleeping, so it had to be jiggled around to wake it up, so that the scan-lady could measure the fluid at the back of its neck, which is the indicator of chromosomal abnormality. When woken up, it wriggled and somersaulted for a few seconds, and then went back to sleep; no doubt about its parentage, then.

So, in summary, we have one healthy foetus; 5.3cm long at the time of writing, which puts it at exactly 12 weeks old. Its tiny heart is beating at 158 bpm. Statistical likelihood of DS reduced from 1:312 to 1:1754. Up until this point, we have been so very cautious; we have not given it a comedy nickname, or planned how we will fit the cot into our house. Last time it was so intensely disappointing to get all excited, and then have nothing; so we have counted every day that we woke up still pregnant, and been pleased about it. Now I feel as though we have been given permission to let go of some of the anxiety and enjoy the pregnancy; it's such a relief, and it is SO exciting.

Written 5th December 2005, but embargoed until after Christmas, by which time we will have told our parents.

Karen writes Rise

For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

Predictions 2006

That Day After the abject failure of last year's predictions I jokingly threw in some predictions which I thought could not possibly be incorrect. Let's see how we did shall we?

It's going to be a good year for big and small screen science fiction epics.

You can download a demonstration of how right I was right here. It's an mp3 of the closing theme to Doctor Who, as it appeared on Christmas Day without the maniac continuity announcer. Thousands of words have been written (partly by me) and hundreds of hours spoken in the subject of this, but that theme explains the differing attitude to that drama. For years the theme was recorded in an office tucked away somewhere on a synthesiser. Here is it being played by a full orchestra with the brass section belting out the welcome return of the middle eighth.

Elsewhere on television, Battlestar Galactica was startlingly amazing, and Star Trek: Enterprise was surprising yet disappointing in equal measures the franchise fell into decline. I hear that Tom Hanks is interested in a revival. Good luck.

I also knew that Serenity was imminent. What I wasn't prepared for was (a) what a great film this was and (b) how closely it grazed the atmosphere of the mainstreat before bouncing off into space. It won the Film 2005 poll, something which was put down to a fan block vote (well yes), then, since neither of the guests had seen it, they talked about Star Wars instead.

Which is what I'm bound to do. What a disappointment. Oh the space battles were very good and some of the dialogue. But on a fundamental level it was a failure which can be summed up with the first words from Darth Vader's grill: "How's Padme?" and "Nooooooooooo......." Any writer/director who throught that millions of fans had waited thirty years to find that out really does need to make a few small films like he's promised.

Globally things are going to get worse before they get better.

I could make a list but instead I'll link to the BBC's review of the unusual and bizarre.

A well known celebrity will get divorced in a very public way.

Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston. And the rest ...

People will learn more about themselves.

Well have we. I mean really? I don't know that I have. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that actually people don't fundamentally change from one year to the next. The props will change, where they are and what they're doing but the attitude isn't going to.

My life is going to change in a big way.

Resigned my job. Went to university. Which is fairly big. As to everything else? I'd look at the last prediction.

I'd give myself three and a half. Which is better than last year. I think this time I'm going to be wildly specific. So...

  • Something shockingly surprising happens in Doctor Who which no one saw coming.

  • The US goes to war with another country without any international support, particularly the UK.

  • A cheap usable text equivalent of the ipod will be released and will be wifi compatible giving access to the internet and texts, wherever whenever.

  • The ban on smoking in public places will tip the habit into terminal, steady decline.

  • My life is going to change in a big way.

  • I think it's going to be another one of those years.

    Betty beautiful.

    Music It's the last day of the year and suddenly, finally I'm listening to the James Blunt single, You're Beautiful, something I've somehow missed for whole months. Um... doesn't the accoustic guitar opening sound like the theme to Bill Bixby's The Incredible Hulk tv series from the seventies? Did everybody know this?

    Review 2005


    on the first week of january, titled 'more', i wrote down a list of things i wanted more of in 2005. it was a list of the mundane and the grande: more snowboarding, more giving up on grudges, more home-cooked meals, more yoga, more photography more standing up for my beliefs. i also wrote down: more love.

    after years of good and decent but ultimately half-hearted relationships that demanded a whole lot of 'trying to make it work', i think deep down, i wanted to believe in love again. i wanted that grande, grandiose thing you see on movie screens and hear about in songs and that i kept seeing happening to other people. i wanted intensity and that soulmate thing. i wanted to be with someone who understood and loved my quirks. i wanted that 'not needing to hide those parts of yourself that you think no one will like them anyway' thing.

    love hit me over the head a few weeks after writing my 'more' list as i read the sunday paper. it wasn't anything special: just one sentence about radiohead. i contacted the authour and to my great surprise, he replied to my email, and that's how it started. i lack words to describe the intensity of those first few days. within two or three emails, i' realised that i'd fallen head over heels in love. yeah, i'd heard that that happened to people all the time, falling in love through writing, over the net, but i'd never expected that it would happen to me. it was the same for him, apparently, as electric currents were transmitted through fibreoptic wires, yadayadayada. he wrote sentences that felt like i'd written them, we shared the same strange views on strange topics, like a love for the fonts used on dutch street signs and travelling on trains. we wrote a thousand emails in that first week and very quickly started talking on the phone. without having met this man, i was sure he was my soulmate. i left my then boyfried days after that first email, one of the hardest things i've ever done, no matter how mediocre that relationship was. i wanted to be able to start fresh with this new thing, i wanted to be as open and honest as possible. a short while later i met him in his hometown, a few hundred kilometres away. our first date was at a bright eyes concert. he looked much different to the photos he'd sent, actually, he looked nothing like those photos at all, but i thought that if this guy was supposed to be my soulmate, if this was my one love thing, which all of our contact, all my emotions seemed to point to, i could neglect looks. and it was all sweet, the connection, the conversation, the sex....well, almost all.

    there was that marriage thing. his marriage, rather. over the weeks, i came to realise that what he'd described as a marriage that was 'as good as divorced', a family life which he had described as 'living together because of the child', was a marriage that was still very much a marriage, one were the word 'divorce' had quite likely never been ushered, and a real family life. wanting to follow my whole 'surrendering to real love' project, i did what lovers of married men have done for centuries: i believed that he'd leave her, eventually, he just needed time. and things between us were great, really, intense and clichéd, but great. meetings in expensive hotels. phone calls worth thousands of euro. sex filled rituals. mix cds. i was so blinded by it all, that i even stayed at the family home when his wife and kid were travelling. one day, it would all be fine, i thought.

    one day however, after four months of bliss, of living the grande thing, it all fell apart.

    his other lover had found my weblog and my flickr stream. no, not his wife. his other lover. it turned out that he'd met another woman through that article on radiohead after which i'd contacted him. they'd had a first date at an interpol concert. she'd stayed at the family home while his wife and kid were travelling, hours before i had arrived there. they had the calls and the rituals and the tons of emails, too. and she had the exact same mix cds as i did.

    the next few days and weeks were extremely terrible as i tried to cling to my feelings, to love, after (t)his betrayal, trying deperately to find some kind of justification for his actions. no matter how hard i tried, i just couldn't. i eventually had to realise that the love that i'd felt between me and him had quite simply never existed, that it all had been a great ploy of his to just see how far he could take it all and that he had never, not even for a moment, even recognised the real me. this had never been about love for him, this was all about fucking. 'just 'caus you feel it, doesn't mean it's there.' sings thom yorke in 'there, there.' thom's right. he kept saying that 'this all just happened to him' which i just couldn't believe. i couldn't believe that he hadn't felt great at least for one minute or two to be smart enough to betray three women at once.

    in 2005, i believed in love and in finding my soulmate, and i failed, in every way possible. the believing in love part was what i'd always wanted to do, the failing part very obviously wasn't. looking back on it, i am happy and thankful and kinda proud of myself that i did it all, that giving in and letting myself feel it all and the taking chances. - not because those four months of bliss were that great, - in retrospect, they are worthless and ugly and full of lies and betrayal, as nothing that happened then was real, but because only good things came out of it, eventually. i'm single now, and that's far better than being in a half-hearted relationship, just because you don't want to be alone. i rediscovered what is important for me in life and in relationships, rediscovered my love for music and live music, met incredible people, him excluded. his other lover is my best friend these days, the best friend i've ever had.

    and i still believe in love.

    Originally uploaded by misscaro.

    caro writes bloggold and takes photos. one day, she might start writing caroville again.

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    Page turning

    Books "Several years ago, I calculated how many books I could read if I lived to my actuarially expected age. The answer was 2,138. In theory, those 2,138 books would include everything from "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" to "Le Colonel Chabert," with titles by authors as celebrated as Marcel Proust and as obscure as Marcel Aymé. In principle, there would be enough time to read 500 masterpieces, 500 minor classics, 500 overlooked works of genius, 500 oddities and 138 examples of high-class trash. Nowhere in this utopian future would there be time for "Hi-Ho, Steverino!" -- Joe Queenan on too many books so short a lifespan. I wish I was as well adjusted in my reading as Karie.

    Review 2005


    Christmas always tends to have an air of melancholy, as nothing screams frustrated ambition quite like the sound of another year passing by. However, I think in my 2005 I have made some tiny but important achievements that might, one day, come to the attention of the wider world, and will eventually have me hailed as the right and proper Queen of the Universe, and also saviour of mankind, and quite possible Best Person Ever.

    But until that happens, my successes in 2005 remain some of the biggest and best of my humble and increasingly pointless lifetime.

    In contemplating writing this little piece of self-importand dribble, I considered a number of possibilities as to what my biggest achievement in 2005 could be. It could be that I've finally managed to trick someone of the opposite and opposing sex to move in with me and become, as I like to refer to him, "my live in lover" or "my special flatmate" or, as others describe him, "that poor fool". I could talk about how I've finally overcome two of the biggest phobias of my life: that of flying, and that of needles, by getting on a plane at least twice a month every month between November 2005 and July 2006, and having some tattoos painted on my foot with big scary needles and ink.

    Alternatively, it is an achievement of sorts that I managed to successfully contract food poisoning (being a vegetarian), but miraculous disembark from the tube train on which I was travelling to throw up instead on the platform (if you've ever commuted in London, I think you'll share with me the horror of being ill on a tube train). I'm also quite pleased about the practicality with which I have dealt with my credit card debt, in that right at this moment I have more in my current account than on my credit card, something that hasn't happened since 1998 at the earliest.

    But no. My honestly, truly, proudest moment of actual sheer physical, mental and emotional success, the peak of my year as a person, came about a week ago, when myself and my long-suffering better half were leaving a young person's musical adventure, and noticed that the bus we were intending to catch was rapidly approaching us from behind, while we were still quite the way away from the stop at which we could catch it. I looked at him. He looked at me. We both looked ahead. And, grabbing the top of my jeans and hiking them up to avoid them falling around my ankles, we both set off in a sprint, laughing and yelling as we did that there was no way we were going to get that bus, and where was my oyster card, and my trousers are falling down, and look it's stopping and oh god, we did it.

    It may not seem like a big deal to you, dear reader, that I managed to run for and successfully catch a bus, but this time two years ago I spent New Years Eve on the floor of my flat in Edinburgh, alone and crying due to the pain in my back that was so bad I couldn't sit up, stand, or socialise in any reasonable or meaningful manner. I don't by any means intend this post to be a sort of self-aggrandising rant to the power of my healing abilities, or the bravery over which I have defeated my adversaries, or even just a boasting on the fact that I can recover from physical injury. It is simply a darned, straight up, and thank the good lord and all his angels, mind boggling success for me to happily run for a bus without a care in the world, that this is my biggest success of 2005.

    Now. I'm off to drink my body weight in brandy. Do please have a merry that and a wonderful the other.

    Shazzle writes Dreadful Nonsense

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    Nuts Tella

    Food "I know a man who once swam in a vat of Nutella. His name is John and he's the partner of Mum's lovely friend Trish. I met him the night before Wedding III, when The Mothership arranged a dinner with her Schoolteacher Posse. John was one of those easygoing guys you like immediately. Gareth was especially smitten because he was into motorbikes, but when he casually mentioned the Nutella Thing no other details mattered to me but the Nutella Thing." -- Shauna. Which reminds me that I received a jar of the stuff at Christmas. I knew there was something missing on my toast this morning.

    Hu hu hu.

    Nature "New Yorkers have them. So do Georgians, Texans, Brits, and Australians. Now primate researchers have discovered that Japanese macaques can acquire different accents based on where they live - just like humans. The red-faced monkeys frequently utter what researchers have dubbed coo calls to maintain vocal contact with one another. Recordings of these calls taken over an eight-year period show that macaques living hundreds of miles apart "speak" at different frequencies." -- Maryann Mott for National Geographic. I bet they can even communicate how they're feeling better than some humans.

    Review 2005

    Adrian McEwen

    When I signed up for the Review 2005 I had a clear idea of the achievment I was going to write about. My achievement for the year would be the release of my first piece of software.

    Not the first piece of software of which I'd written a major part; or the first piece I'd been responsible for planning; or the first piece I'd seen in people's hands... Although they were all important firsts of which I'm proud, they all happened a few years back, earlier in my career.

    This would be the first product that I'd built, from scratch, all by myself. Decided the feature set myself, written all the code myself, and planned and managed from start to finish myself. The culmination of over eighteen months' work.

    It hasn't been the easiest of transitions, from employee to self-employed. There are many more things to take care of - I almost said to worry about, but the over-riding problem hasn't been worrying about them; rather finding the time to fit them all in and still keep the development of the software edging towards completion. Working alone, from home, has also been a challenge - I'm finally getting to grips with the self-discipline and motivation required to get through the times when the task seems to stretch away into the far distance. And I still need to keep reminding myself that most of the time any decision, even the wrong one, is better than no decision and will stop you procrastinating away hours...

    Now all that's left is to close with a short description of what I've built... to point you to the website where the software can be downloaded, and then tell you how I'm going to relax and enjoy the Christmas period having achieved something I've been thinking about doing for many years.

    Only unfortunately I can't.

    Not just yet.

    If you followed the link above, you'd just be asked if you wanted to join the beta testing (which, if you haven't backed up your computer lately, you should think about). For the software isn't quite finished. It's so close to being finished that I've begged for a special extension to the deadline for Review 2005 submissions, but even that hasn't quite been enough.

    So my great achievement isn't going to happen in 2005. There have been plenty of other achievements made along the way: I've become a company director; run my first usability testing; launched a beta programme; and got my software into the hands or real people. So there's still lots for me to feel proud of, and I'll be all set for next year's review...

    Adrian McEwen writes mcfilter

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    "Let me sing you a waltz about this lovely one night stand..." -- Julie Delpy

    Music Welcome readers of Cinematical, where I was linked by Martha Fischer earlier on today regarding the Julie Delpy & Band photo I found at flickr. Just a bit of follow up background. Julie Delpy's album, originally released in 2003 is an excellent piece of work, kind of breazy fusion of blues and chanson -- and produced three of the songs subsequently used in Before Sunset, An Ocean Apart, Je T'Aime Tant and Waltz for a Night which mentions Jesse, the character her co-star Ethan Hawke played in both films. This was the song she sang to him at the end of the second movie. Basically if you loved the songs which appeared on the film's soundtrack, you'll love the rest. I'm sorry, am I gushing?

    The Middle 8th

    TV Morning. Nothing much else to say other than here is a link to an mp3 of the new new version of the Doctor Who closing theme, with the middle 8th, as it appeared on Christmas Day but without the voiceover! And what a strident, epic, exciting piece of music it is. Turn up your speakers ... bullets can't stop it ... [via]

    Hamlet Online

    Comprehensive website and reference tool.


    Christmas "My Brother [I suppose you think it's funny] his girlfriend [I blame her - yes I do - she is the mastermind behind this cruel and twisted Christmas gift] and their one year old son [whom I'm sure is innocent - but I bet he roared with laughter when his evil parents told him about the gift they had bought for his uncle Andre] have bought me this for Christmas ..." -- Andre receives the present not of his dreams.


    Education RSA launches lectures podcast. I don't know if any of them will be interesting but this does suggest another application -- the recording of university lectures as a matter of course which are then turned into mp3 podcasts for students to refer to saving them from having to dictaphone them. But I'm sure the university would only send them to students who had actually attended the lecture ...


    Review 2005 "I immediately began to run the film titled, "Mary's 2005" looking for that dream I fulfilled. Certainly I did a lot of things this year. I moved from my small home town to a city 300 miles away. I survived a category 4 hurricane. I quit a job, got offered several jobs, then basically got my old job back. I failed. I adjusted. I endured. I stretched myself. And I amazed myself!" -- Mary's been inspired by our review to talk about her own year.

    Julie Delpy & Band


    Julie Delpy & Band
    Originally uploaded by siutung.

    Great concerts are happening in other countries right now.

    Feeling blue.

    Music (?) "A massive hit in England (the country that brought the world Jive Bunny, remember) Crazy Frog's version of "Axel F" (better known as the Beverly Hills Cop theme, which every seventh-grader with a home synth was playing in 1984) stopped Coldplay's "Speed Of Sound" from hitting number one in the UK. The song was originally a cell-phone ringtone, but the annoying little amphibian took on a life of its own with Crazy Hits, managing to make the most easily digestible dance crap from years past even more radio-friendly. Original version of "Who Let The Dogs Out?" too street for you? Let Crazy Frog make everything all right." -- The AV Club discovers this year's inessential albums.

    Not Review 2005

    Culture Well obviously it is a review, not necessarily the one you've all been enjoying. Every year, even when I've been taking the alternative approach I have managed to list other impressive items. I've had quite a soupy approach to culture this year, particularly catching up on things I've missed from the past. With that in mind, rather than producing separate lists, here are seven cultural moments which I've loved in the past twelve months. It's not a complete list (no television, timelords or books?) and in no particular order ...

    (1) Sideways was the film which made me buy a Pinot at Christmas time (Chilean not Californian though). It was great to see everyone related to the film demonstrating that great actors, script and directing still have value. Virginia Madsen in particular shone after years in the direct-to-video wilderness, being looked at again by a cruel film industry.

    (2) Natalie Imbruglia's album Counting Down The Days had the rare distinction of not being a nagging disappointment. Each of Nat's albums feels like a labour of love, the work of someone who genuinely believes in what they're doing. I gave the cd a slightly negative review originally, but on subsequent listens it slipped under my skin, the title track being a particularly stirring pian to those of us waiting for something ...

    (3) Melinda and Melinda was a surprising film, effortless in many ways and despite what others might be saying one of the most inspirational films of the year. Let's remember that Woody Allen's turned seventy and yet here is a film which feels like its been directed by someone a third of his age. Even after all these years he has the ability to create something fresh and inspiring that also talks about the very nature of drama.

    (4) Nina Gordon's cover version of Straight Outa Compton was with the wierd comedy drama trailer for The Shining an excellent example of a cross genre approach to culture. It was a stunt, a way of selling a few records, but with such a beautiful voice tempering one of music's angrier songs it's difficult to see why she's not a major star. Sigh, next album then.

    (5) Here is what I wrote about Doug Liman's excellent Mr & Mrs Smith back in June. Listening to the dvd commentary reveals that this was a difficult shoot, with Brad Prit disappearing for a while in the middle to film Ocean's Twelve and a patch work of editing and reshoots. But what's been created is a curio which melds the sensibilities of a 1940s screwball comedy with a Michael Bay film. With Vince Vaughn. And as I said back then, "It's an Angelina Jolie film I can like. I've never found her all that inspiring but there's just something about the way she pouts, raises an eyebrow, holds a gun and wears knee high boots which slays me..."

    (6) "Look, it's not that I've had a sense of humour bypass, and lord knows music is not be beyond satire or reproach, but which twonk thought Jonathan Ross was the man to introduce this event? Dido and Youssou N'Dour give a great performance of Seven Seconds in one of the highlights of the show and he comes on at the end with -- 'I thought it went on a bit too long at the end.' Who cares what you think? You're not funny and your hair's too long." Sums up my Live 8 experience. Shame. Included for some of the performances, but not the production.

    (7) I think the world can probably be separated into those who like Joss Whedon and those who are wrong. Serenity was like watching a dream become reality telling the story we all wanted to see and speaking to each and everyone one of us. Like Sideways it seemed to be doing and saying an awful lot effortlessly. Like the best of Whedon's work it dragged the viewer through the emotional ringer, spitting us out the other end better people for the journey. The year's Lord of the Rings.


    Film Wierdness abounds in the LoveFilm worst show of the year poll. Everything is going well then at number 5:

    Melinda and Melinda

    How does that appear higher than House of Wax in a list like that?


    Appeal A bit random, but did anyone reading happen to record Channel Five between 9:30am and 11:30 this morning (28/12) -- in other words Extreme Makeover Home Edition and Renovate My Family? I was asked to record them and forgot ... aaaaah!

    Bells and whistles

    Firefox I'm just attempting to posting using a new extension called Performance which allows the writing of new posts from within the browser with one click. I'm looking at a page filled with bells and whistles. Let's see if it works.

    Updated It sort of works. It doesn't have a way around Blogger's 'Word Notification' software so every post is saved as a draft so you still have to visit Blogger to actually post them to the page. Plus I think it drops things into the post in the Atom feed at the same time so it has the danger of blog posts cropping up twice there ...

    Review 2005

    Sasha F

    2005 was the year that I really discovered photography (among other things - I don't want you to think I'm one dimensional).

    I often think of myself as a visual person: I dress in that textured creative way that implies I know the canon of visual imagery. I was Trinny-and-Susanna-ing my friends (without the nastiness, obviously) well before anyone knew from personal shoppers or TV shows. And I go to art galleries, and often notice small interesting details in the universe - visually - and imagine myself framing photos and referring to them later as I build up my records of how the world looks to me.

    I am susceptible to my environment. I notice when people's furniture is the wrong size for the room, or their pictures are hung in a way that doesn't work for the space. A very long time ago (when I wasn't quite so good at knowing when to keep my mouth shut) I enabled the speedy and rather tragic ending of lovely relationship with a creative opera-lover-type who lived in Highgate because I rather forcefully insisted that he rehang the pictures in his living room. He subsequently turned out to be gay, and I learned the value of keeping shtum.

    Last November, I did the usual phone-upgrade thing with Orange, and I got a Nokia 6710. I didn't want a camera, it just came with it, and for six months, I was annoyed that it was a phone that primarily perceived itself as a camera, and you had to press more buttons to make a call than take a pic.

    Two summers ago, I angsted for ages about which digital camera to buy - balancing technical requirements with value for money - because the moment you make the purchase decision on any piece of technology and press the "confirm order" button, that very minute something bigger/better/smaller/cheaper comes on the market and you are already working with tired materials.

    The camera gods, however, were having none of it: my new digital camera was nicked by a taxi driver in New York less than a month after I bought it, and before I'd even had a chance to download the photos.

    Sometimes, you think someone up there has a message for you.

    But in the meantime, I'd got into my phonecam. Camphone. Who knows what you call all the new stuff that keeps arriving.

    What I like is the spontaneity. The throwaway-ness. I'm not taking a day of work and saying "today is the day I take pictures." My camera's always in my handbag, because my phone is, and the impermanence of the snaps that I take is what does it for me. The artlessness, and the limitations of the form - closeups are better than vistas, real closeups just get fuzzy - mean that I have to work within restrictions that, bizarrely - seem to engender my creativity, rather than hamper it.

    After I'd worked out the geek-stuff of getting my photos off my phone and onto my PC, I got excited. I felt like I'd found a new way to express myself. There's something both calming and life-affirming about recording the world as you see it.

    This all came to a head in November, traditionally phone-upgrade month. Usually, I'm hungry for the latest whatever, craving newness above all else, but now I feel my Nokia 6710 is my trusty friend: I couldn't give it up for anything. Also, it looks slightly art deco in a fakely retro way, which makes me feel very Algonquin, which is never a bad thing.

    And I never bought another real digital camera - I've thought about it, and delicioused all the research, but there's no hurry. Sure, I'd like to explore new ways of doing clever things with photos, but there's still so much for to discover with what I've got, that there's no real hurry.

    No real hurry. That's a new concept for me.

    So for a few months, I've had a flickr. Now I've got more than five hundred photos, and sure, lots of them are holiday snaps, but some are really good photos that I really like. And also, sometimes I think my blog looks a bit dull, all text, so I can break it up with pictures.

    After all, a picture's worth a thousand words.

    Check out my flickr at:

    Sasha F writes Sashinka

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    Blah, blah, blah

    Music "Less than two weeks before the planned Jan. 3 release of her sophomore Columbia album, "Pretty Little Head," singer/songwriter Nellie McKay has voluntarily left the label, sources tell At deadline, the fate of the album is unknown; a spokesperson for the artist had no comment and McKay could not be reached. The parties apparently reached an impasse over the length of the project. McKay insisted the label release her 23-song, 65-minute version, while Columbia sent out promotional copies of a 16-song, 48-minute album." -- Jonathan Cohen.

    Oh that's just nuts and indiotic and infuriating. I mean I'm glad that McKay left the label rather than compromised, but were back in Fiona Apple territory with a possibly great album in limbo waiting for release, and this so close to the time it should be hitting the shops. AI'm hoping for a situation somewhat like Terry Gilliam's film Brazil in which the critics get hold of a full uncut version and start reviewing it well until the record company is embarassed into releasing the whole version. Otherwise -- what's up with those seven tracks that the record company doesn't want to let them see the light of day? [via]

    Attack of the Graske.

    TV About half an hour after Attack of the Graske was first broadcast, an online discussion board was already fired up trying to decide whether it was canon, giving explanations as to why The Doctor would be talking to the camera. The point that they and others appear to have missed is that some of us had the opportunity to see the new model in action for the third time this year, and to witness the genius of actually how well defined the character is this early in the game.

    I've no idea how far into the new shooting schedule this was filmed but the timelord's personality is already perfectly refined. David Tennant is funny, exciting and authoritative, even when he's asking the audience to make selections with their remote. Here, even more than in the preceding dramas we see that capacity of the man to spin comedy on a dime -- witness the moment when he dashes around the console explaining what the game is about then dropping that hilarious incredulity of 'Including you mate ... how'd you get the energy?' We haven't seen anything this manically brilliant (in the television version of the series at least) since Tom Baker.

    It was an excellent piece of scripting from the always underrated Gareth Roberts in his first tv work, filled with cherishable moments which play to the same strength we've seen in his previous work of adding detail to minor characters. Witness the tragedy of the patronised grandfather in the family scenes being ordered around by his madam of a granddaughter, bemoaning the lack of inspiration in his Christmas present ('Another year I've got vouchers. Vouchers. Anyone would think I don't have a personality. I quite wanted a foot spa. I do have a personality.') and told off by his daughter ('Put the wrappers in the bin not in a box. It causes confusion and disappointment. People think they're reaching for their favourite and realise it's only an empty wrapper.') This is a depth of character much greater than the average interactive game.

    The costume design of the Graske was very good, presenting a plausible menacing alien. The plot, grabbing people from throughout history and replacing them with zombies might not have had the greatest depth in terms of storyline, but was perfectly fine for such a short adventure. Not to forget that this is actually the first time the new series has traveled to a new alien world, which is an innovation even if we didn't see too much of it.

    Other mini pleasures included the cohesive use of onscreen graphics, particularly the Gallifreyan script, which I'm really beginning to warm to after some initial cynicism; seeing the TARDIS console up close; the Victorian Christmas; seeing what looked like a new form of Zygon or even an Ice Warrior in one of the storage containers on the planet; the new Slitheen animation which seemed more plausible and integrated than anything that appeared in Aliens in London; the revelation that this might not be the last we me not have seen the last of the Graske.

    The only weakness was really the 'interactive' element of the show, although this was largely due to the technology available. On Freeview at least, this was a sequence which ran from start to finish, the only variations being whether the player selected the correct answer, the box moving between the two interactive channels. But hey, this was an experiment and fun to play.

    And at the end of it all, we had The Doctor wishing us a Merry Christmas through the tv. Just like the old days ...


    Life I want to write about a dream I had last night.

    I hardly ever remember my dreams too vividly and want to write them up on here even less but for some reason this has stuck with me all day. The start is foggy as these things are, but I remember walking out of the back door of a house which only ever seems to appear in my imagination and knock on another back door which is opposite. It all happens from my point of view. This isn't one of those occasions when I appear in the dream and I'm watching from the third person.

    A girl opens the door.

    I don't know who she is. I've been wracking my brain but I really don't know how she's been summoned and were I might have met her before. But here she is standing in the doorway. For some reason I remember seeing her before with short cropped hair, but now she had long brown tied back hair. She seems to be slightly younger than me and she's wearing a light green t-shirt and jeans. I think. Colours in dreams are always indistinct.

    She's just glaring at me. I remember being worried. She doesn't say anything.

    "Are you OK?" I blurt out.
    She continues to look at me. She her face is blank now.
    "What's wrong?" I ask again.
    "I don't like you." She says.
    I'm hurt.
    "Many reasons. Mostly the conversation we had about focaccia."

    I'll interupt here and say that I have no idea why she said that or what this dream is about. I'm describing it and actually it seems like the perfect opening for a film. A low budget indie picture from in the 90s, a Sundancer, but a film nonetheless. But Italian bread?

    The oddness continues because I remember having the focaccia conversation with the short haired version of her in a previous dream. I remember it not going well and me being me a lot and being nervous and possibly boring. Dreams are relating to each other, but at no time do I realise. This isn't a lucid dream then.

    "I know. I remember." I say. "I'm sorry. I'm not really like that."
    "So what do you want?" She asks.
    "I wanted to see you again."
    "Just for a minute or two..."

    And she lets me into her house. The backdoor leads into a large, lounge area with wood paneling, hundreds of books and a grand piano. I don't remember seeing this house before although now that I reflect back, it does remind me of the apartment which appears in the Woody Allen film, Deconstructing Harry.

    Anyway I don't remember much after that, I'm sorry. I mean I don't remember experiencing it. Dreams have a habit of drifting, scenes in and out of each other.

    But the next thing I remember is running down a corridor which was at my secondary school, through a door into a large 70s American style woodpanel bank, dodging customers up and storming up to an information counter were the girl (now in a tellers uniform) is standing with her manager. Neither are happy to see me. I try to talk to the girl, but the manager, who is about my age I think, keeps telling me that it is inappropriate. I just keep saying...

    "But we had a good night. I want to see you again."

    And eventually, the girl smiles and says OK. I smile and turn and walk away. I remember thinking "I sat up and talked all night with her..."

    Actually when I say that I can't interpret the dream I can take a guess. I've been feeling a bit isolated lately. The few friends I made at the beginning of the year haven't been around much since mid-October (or rather if they have been going out I haven't heard about it...) and somehow, as is the way of things, I'm back into the routine of spending far to much time without a peer group. Things are worse than that. For reasons I hinted at during my Review 2005 entry I think my subconscious is probably getting annoyed. It's trying to tell me about some things I already know and need to change.

    Neil's Review 2005 piece is further down the page. Scroll down.

    TV "David gets it ... What's really fascinating is that the Doctor doesn't settle on his character immediately. He plays with his persona. He tests it out. To put it simply, he uses the current threat to discover who he is and what he's capable of. And while it has become de riguer to echo past Doctors after a regeneration, the 10th does so in such a way it left me feeling dizzy with anticipation. For a moment there it could have gone either way. We could have ended up with a right bastard or a fey fop. What we get is an incredibly natural amalgam that simply screams Doctor! without ever feeling forced or a diluted parody." -- Neil Perryman captures the excitement of the Christmas Doctor Who perfectly, and says all the things I would really want to say. I hadn't noticed the yellow Hitchhikers style JCBs.

    Review 2005

    Franchesca Puehler

    Forgive me for seeming greedy, but this one experience actually killed 2 birds with one stone so to speak.

    I was visiting my best mate who's at Manchester Poly as was, and we went to one of their themed nights at the student union. It was Karaoke. Not being much of an exhibitionist myself I'd never tried this before. Besides, my only singing experience had been in junior school for the Xmas Nativity and that was so long ago I can hardly remember that. My best mate was actually a good singer so I always let her take centre stage while I cowered in the safety of my chair by the bar. Anyway we had a few drinks and she went up to put her name down for a song. I'd told her it was something deep down I'd always wanted to try but could never ever find the courage to do. She tried to persuade me but there was no way I was going to do it here and now in front of soooo many people.

    Anyway she got up and did her Alanis number as usual. It was good but I've lost count of the number of time's I've heard her do Ironic, but who cares. The next thing I know my name is being called out and I'm up to sing next ! I was stunned. You know like in the movies when the camera does a close up on your face and the background zooms away, or something like that. My friend came walking back over to me grinning like a Cheshire cat. She said to me "you'll be great, I know you will" and she kissed me on my cheek and whispered "knock em dead girl".

    The next thing I knew I had somehow reached the stage - mental note, never drink too many screaming orgasms as it seems to leave you with the impression you have powers you don't really posses ! Anyhow, I hadn't even noticed what the song was during these few moments of terror. Oh my god ! How cheesy can you get? I Will Always Love You by Whitney ! I thought to myself, oh what the heck. I can't chicken out now, I guess its now or never. Then the backing track started and the words lit up on the monitor in front of me. This was it. It was really happening. There was a hush that descended on the room and eyes from what seemed like every corner where fixed on me. I went for the first note, and I hit it just how I'd imagined I would - terribly lol. But soon enough everything seemed to fit into place and the right notes started to flow. I was doing it! And you know what, it felt good too. At a break in the singing I eventually plucked up the courage to take my transfixed eyes from the monitor and look out into the crowd. As I did I could see my friend standing right in front of me just staring into my eyes and smiling. I expected her to be pulling faces or cheering, but she was being very subdued. Anyway I managed to get to the end of the song and the relief of getting there overwhelmed me. I'd done it and people were actually cheering.

    I stumbled down the steps of the stage and made my way over to my friend, who now I wasn't so desperate to strangle like I had wanted to minutes early. I noticed something about her. She had a tear in her eye. She was stunned. "That was amazing. And you said you couldn't sing !". I was flattered. She came to give me a hug, but instead of a drunken sloppy kiss on the cheek like she'd given me moments before I'd got up to sing, she looked my straight in the eye and kissed me on right on the lips ! I'd never experienced this before, but it just seemed so right for that moment. I'd secretly had a bit of a crush on her in my teenage years and had even thought about kissing her back then, but now after all this time it was actually happening. It was only short, but it was like something I've never felt before. It was one of those brief moments when everything seemed to just click perfectly into place.

    Now I can safely say I've finally done something, well to be honest two things, I've always wanted to do! That reminds me, must check when the next Karaoke night is . . .

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    "If you switch to ITV tonight, the galaxy may implode..."

    The Christmas Day overnight ratings have been released. Here's the top ten ...

    1 EastEnders 10.1 million (BBC1)
    2 Dr Who 9.4 million (BBC1)
    3 Coronation Street 9.4 million (ITV1)
    4 Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook 7.9 million (BBC1)
    5 Shrek 6.7 million (BBC1)
    6 Emmerdale 6.6 million (ITV1)
    7 Toy Story 6.5 million (BBC1)
    8 Celebrity Millionaire? 6.3 million (ITV1)
    9 The Queen 6.2 million (BBC1)
    10 BBC News 6.50pm 6.2 million (BBC1)

    In the only war we care about, BBC1 beat ITV by some 3 million viewers. They were generally beaten for much of the day. I actually can't think of a reason why Coronation Street wasn't scheduled up against Doctor Who other than some understanding that it would be detrimental to viewing figures overall. That said -- doesn't this demonstrate once and for all that television is no longer the force it once was over the festive period? It will be interesting to see what the numbers are for multichannel homes and how many of them stayed with the terrestrial stations.

    Boxing my ears

    That Day Boxing Day feels like The Negative Zone from the Superman comics. It's that place after Christmas were the all the energy you spent leading up to the big day goes to and dies. I've never really known what to do and it's often quite a wierd day. I end up doing things like watching documentaries about the making of Battleship Potempkin or hours aimlessly online looking for the overnight ratings for last night's extraordinary Doctor Who. One of these years, much like New Years Eve, I'll understand what the day is for and how to spend it. Look at the Wikipedia and it really isn't any hope. Oh well, Holiday Tuesday to come. On the upside, my mp3 player is talking to my computer and I've this new way of listening to music. Probably the headphones but for a few minutes I thought Madeleine was singing just to me.

    The end of a long day


    Enjoy the view. You've earned it.
    Originally uploaded by Trick Kid.

    New Year?

    Economics "Is it me, or is New Year's Eve the Emperor's New Clothes of nights out? I'm not saying I've have never had a good night out on the 31st of December. Wait, yes I am. I have never had a good night out on the 31st of December, because every single commercial night out that is overpriced and full of people who, under pressure to have the time of their lives because they?ve been told That's What Happens and they've paid so much to be there, have had too far much to drink and turned into uncomfortable, hideous (mute plaural). These days I try and stay in." -- Ste Triforce. Yup.

    I started off somewhere in between nerd and cool . . .

    History "The sixth grade I started off somewhere in between nerd and cool. I didn't hang out with the most popular kids, but I hung out with the second most popular clique. Halfway through the year I broke through my barrier and actually became one of the elite. It happened just like in the movies where I had to break my best friend's heart when I went to go sit with my new friends at lunch. We were mean to people that were outside of our likes. Being a part of this group meant that you listened and obeyed everything Emily said. If you didn't then you were out as fast as you could say geek." -- Kiki Oshkosh proves that teen films can be really true to life.

    Review 2005

    Anna Pickard

    It's Weird

    I've been sitting, and screen-staring, and mentally shuffling all of the things that have happened to me in the past 11 months. From rental flat to rental flat. From mouse infestation to cauterised IKEAness. Conversations sublime and ridiculous. From 8-4, 10-6, 11-7, occasionally overnight, work, and work, and work. One professional moment I thought I'd never see, then another, and another. The moment my tiny nephew first walked towards me on shaky legs. My first beetroot.

    "... describe a moment when you suceeded in doing something you've always wanted to do this year."

    My mind riffles and flips through the hundreds of words I've seen move from my brain to various kinds of pages this year. Some were important, some were exciting, and some represented some kind of success. But for some reason, these don't seem to hold, to keep focus, as the thing that should be written about. I have the feeling that there are too many words to write about words, and I think I should be looking for just one. It's weird.

    "It doesn't need to be a life changing event, but it really could be... what counts is how it made you feel."

    It was strange. It was odd. It was - it was weird, but the first time I realised it, it felt good.

    This year - for the first time in my life - I have finally driven into my head the correct spelling of the word 'Weird'. It's "e" then "i", apparently. Not the other way around after all.

    I've known a lot of people who've had problems similar to mine in the past. People who always use two p's where one would suffice, people who have to write "accommodation" on a piece of paper in three various spellifications before they commit it to its waiting home - people who are underconfident about their sense of "necessity" and will slowly plod through it, repeatedly adding and deleting s's and c's with growing glumness of heart until they reach the y.

    And why? Because it happens to everyone - everyone has that word, I think. That word they just can't spell. For me, it was 'weird'. It was always 'Weird', and before it was simply 'weird', it was all other words with e's and i's in as well. I often had problems with friends, found it difficult to talk about weight issues, or even height ones. I would avoid caffeine, if at all possible, and never, ever used the word inveigle. Until now, obviously.

    Over the years I've tried desperately to teach myself - little incantations of "I" before "E", except after "C" - even way after the moment I realised that it was a stupid rule and barely applied to anything I was trying to spell at all. I before E, except after C. But weird started with a 'W'. So according to the stupid rule, that would mean it to be "i" and then "e"? Wierd. No?

    Confused, I would try the tricks my mother had taught me. I would write the word down one way. And the other. Wierd. Weird.

    Well it *was* weird, because the Law Of Jan said that when you wrote the possible spellings next to each other, one of them should look desperately wrong.

    But Neither would look wrong. They would both look fine, and perfectly plausible. Weird. Wierd. I would read them out loud. They both sounded right too. Weird.

    Eventually, I would give up. A bloody dictionary. The bloody internet. The chagrin of asking a passing competent speller. Or just the bloodyminded decision taken that whoever was reading would have to love me regardless of my pissy e's and i's.

    It was a great problem. No matter how many times I looked it up, made my peace with it, and carefully folded and placed it in my brain, the next time I went to find it, it would have fallen out again, and the hole in my mind where it was meant to live would simply hold a mocking note, saying "ei? ie? 'oo knows?".

    And for some reason that note would be in a French accent. I don't know why
    But it sounds undeniably more disparaging.

    It drove me insane. Every single time this cropped up - and it's a word I like to use, I like to use it a lot, I would stumble, and stumbling would slow me down, and I would lose my thread, and losing my thread would make me grumpy, and my appalling memory would make me grumpy, and the e's would just sit there and the i's would swim before mine and I wouldsit and grump and swear.

    Because I couldn't, for the life of me, work out why I could remember whole swathes of scripts, song lyrics from chart hits long forgotten, and facts about ridiculous things that I would never ever need to know, but couldn't for one second remember whether weird was spelt with and i-fecking-e or an e-fecking-i.

    Then, this year.

    This year, for some unknown reason, something changed. One day I looked at the word "weird" and said "You know what? That is how you spell it. I think that's how it might have been spelled all along". And immediately wrote it on the side of my monitor.

    And since that day, whenever I've had a momentary panic, I've simply looked down at that little 'weird' note, and smiled. Smiled, and typed, smiling.

    It's weird, you see. Weird.

    The "e" goes before the "i".

    Anna Pickard writes

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    I still can't spell the name Micheal though. Michael. Michel. Micheal. Oh arse.

    Review 2005

    Neil Perryman

    2005 - the year I finally came out of the closet.

    After spending many lonely years hiding my feelings and lurking on the fringes of the "underground" scene, I can now finally hold my head up high and declare to my friends, my family, and my colleagues at work that YES!, I *am* a 'Doctor Who' fan!

    Then again, who isn't these days?

    In 2005 you couldn't move for Daleks, TARDISes, and Christopher Eccleston's ears. These days, when I buy the monthly 'Doctor Who' magazine from WH Smiths I don't have to hide it inside a copy of FHM, and I still can't get over the fact that many of my lunch times this year were spent filling in newcomers on the subtle complexities of Gallifreyan history or the finer details of the Doctor's regenerative cycle.

    I'm still pinching myself. Did it really come back in such a triumphant blaze of glory? Seriously, did it really happen or am I lying in a coma and simply imagining it? I suppose it's a bit like faithfully supporting a Conference League Football Team for years and years and years, and then they suddenly win the FA Cup *and* The Champions League.

    Anyway, besides the return of my favourite Time Lord, 2005 was a fairly eventful year for me: construction work finally started on our severely delayed barn conversion; I started work on my PhD; I started a couple of blogs; I saw my first short story in print; I saw Edgar Froese play wah-wah guitar; I played in my first real life poker tournament (and won!); I saw the 'One-Man Star Wars Trilogy' in New York; I made some new friends and I managed to re-establish ties with some old ones, but when I try to pin-point a moment that really sums up the year for me, I am drawn to Friday October 7th at approximately 6:25pm. On the A19, just outside Stockton.

    I'm on my way to see 'Serenity' for a second time, which is reason enough to remember the date, I suppose, but what really marks the moment out for me is the fact that my daughter is the one driving the car.

    She had passed her driving test the day before and we'd somehow managed to scrape enough money together to buy her a second-hand VW Polo (I think we had to sack some of the builders). Now, I can't drive (I've never really seen the attraction, although living 25 miles out in the middle of nowhere is beginning to challenge that long-held position), and this was the very first time that I had been in the car with her. And it felt... weird. As a father I was supposed to be responsible for her, but when she disengaged the hand-brake to that car I suddenly felt the ground shift beneath me. I had a flash-forward to the moment where she finally drops me outside the Old People's Home and I knew in that single moment that things have changed forever.

    As she took the roundabout to the cinema with a self-assurance that masked her limited experience, it hit me - she was all grown-up. It was a profound moment for me - a mixture of pride, terror (where did all the years go?) and the growing realisation that 2005 would be the last full year we would spend together as a family; this time next year she'll be living it up at a university somewhere and we'll probably only see her at Christmas time or when the loan money runs out. It really knocked me for six, I can tell you; this was compounded a few moments later when she asked me to explain 'Firefly's back-story to her, and if you know my daughter then you'll appreciate just how surreal a moment *that* was!

    Finally, as it's Christmas, I can't really end this without a list. I love lists, me. I could watch Channel 4's 'Top 100 Christmas Moments' on an endless loop until the end of time (as long as you cut out all the Jimmy Carr links, of course). And so, without any further ado, here are my picks of the cultural year:

    TV Drama of 05: Part of me wants to be controversial and say 'Bodies' (I programme I really do watch behind the sofa) but 'Doctor Who' wins simply because it reinvented television for the 21st century, and you can't say fairer than that.

    TV Comedy of 05: Not exactly a golden year for comedy. Sandwiched between the thoroughly predictable 'Catherine Tate' and 'Little Britain', and a terrible second series of 'Don't Watch That', 'Extras' surprised me by being just as good (if not better) than 'The Office'. But the clear winner has to be 'The Thick Of It' for its semi-improvisational realism and Peter Capaldi's surreal Scottish sarcasm.

    Reality TV of 05: While I enjoyed the rackety philosophical experiment that was 'Space Cadets', the Americans still produce the best reality shows bar none. Best of the bunch has to be 'The Apprentice' with Donald Trump. This season's finale also featured one of the most gob-smacking moments of year when the winner, Randall, refused to let Trump hire the second-place contestant as well - the jerk!

    TV Moment of 05: A tie between Pink Floyd at Live 8 and a certain cricket match being rained off.

    Music of 05: Coldplay's 'Talk' went from being annoying as hell to really quite wonderful the moment I finally worked out that the melody was sampled from Kraftwerk's 'Computer Love', and while Depeche Mode's return to form was welcomed with open arms, the album of the year has to be Kate Bush's 'Ariel'. A work of such unparalleled genius it even managed to make Rolf Harris sound good.
    Film of 05: 'Serenity' was everything I wanted it to be and more. Except, sadly, the runaway hit it deserved to be.

    Neil Perryman writes Behind The Sofa Again

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    No snow though

    That Day Evening. I'm full of dinner and very happy, especially since my Mum and Dad loved their presents. I'm just checking my email whilst I listen to the last fifteen minutes of A Bach Christmas which completes with a final blast of The Christmas Oratorio (organs and altos) playing through the crystal clarity of my new DAB Digital Radio. I hadn't anticipated how much of a difference there is between this and a really good FM signal. I can actually hear the turn of the pages and the shuffle in the seats on the recording. Elsewhere, presents included dvds of Mr & Mrs Smith and A Bridge Too Far and the music of Enya, Madeleine Peyroux and Sugababes, which I could be playing on my new USB Mp3 player if my clapped out computer would recognise its existence without crashing (if anyone knows how I can get a Technika ML-2 to work in Win 98 let me know). Have a great rest of the day.

    Review 2005

    Laura Póvoa Tintori

    3am. Yes, sounds like the "clise" hour for doing things but since a few days it's the moment when I can get to breathe a little bit. I'm trying to enjoy myself despite the merengue songs the police department near my apartment is playing out loud right now. Caracas has been a chaos as Christmas approaches. Just like any other city this time of the year I guess. I'm used to its traffic jams, subway delays and neverending noises, along with all the unstoppable smog and fast-walking -sometimes incredibly annoying slow walking- people. It all can be a highly effective stimulant as a deeply depressing background.

    However, though I do not intend to make a compilation of bizarre events in Caracas or any other city, there is a great feeling going on while stopping to see. And sometimes, just sometimes, it comes to me the clearest view of where I'm standing on: A giant, luminous, envolving and spectacular valley filled with as many houses, buildings, cars, people, lights, trees, highways, and pictures one can think of. I enjoy the beauty of it when it comes to my eyes then to my mind. Of course it's hard to remember that while living the worst part of it: daily routine.

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    Good clean copy.

    Books "No 84 (Charing Cross Road) is now a Chinese medicine shop prominently advertising "herbal viagra", and Borders, with its inevitably Starbucks branch, has muscled in on the old traditions of Foyles and Blackwell?s. (Although it must be confessed that its "open until 11pm" convenience does on occasion come in handy, when you emerge from the theatre just desperate to read the text of the play you just saw, or clutching your head at the memory that it is young cousin John's birthday tomorrow.)" -- Natalie Bennet offers disappointing news in the round-up of the bookshop made famous by Helene Hanff the premises which surround it. I mean I'm not one for the heritagification of anywhere mentioned somewhere in the arts but really ...


    Comics Lois!?!


    Christmas "Once again the spirit of Christmas creeps in through my kitchen window. Normally it would smother me with loneliness, choke me with its alcoholic fumes of regret, but this Christmas is different, special, miraculous. I have finally found my place on this earth. I have finally found peace. The tinsel on my tree glistens with optimism. The mince pies in my cupboard taste of hope. And the mistletoe in my mind is held tightly above an angel sent by God." -- Andrea


    Literature Tom Reynolds has a book to be published. Congratulations Tom!
    Politics Oh man, how could you? I mean I voted for you in the General Election ....

    Teens create Hamlet 'in the Hood'

    "Brainstorming ideas for a project promoting nonviolence, the students chose a work in which almost all the main characters are dead by the time the curtain falls. But in their version, Hamlet openly discusses his troubles with his mother and friends, and his murderous uncle ends up in jail instead of dead at Hamlet's hands in a second, "rewind" ending." [via]

    Happy Christmas

    That Day I don't know what you're doing tonight, but since there's none of the usual pre-Christmas tv nostalgia is around tonight, but I'm here online for a couple of hours finding out how things are going in the rest of the world. It's been a good Christmas Eve -- last year I was a might depressed because of work, but today I visited an early morning farmers market and dashed through the HMV sale (and left with Last Action Hero on dvd) before coming home and tidying my room. That reminds me -- I need to find my Christmas stocking ... back in a minute ...

    ... it was in my sock drawer. That's good planning for me. Anyway, so Radio 3's A Bach Christmas continues in the background, the lights are low and the presents are under the tree. Snow isn't falling yet though.

    Review 2005

    Leah Penn

    My name is Leah, and I am a vendor. Yes, I am one of those people that is alternately annoying and useful during a game at the sports stadium. I hawk cotton candy, lemonade, snocones, or hot chocolate, depending on the weather and my pick of the day. I've been vending for 6 years, and I've worked for the company for 8 years. To fully understand the vending goals I've achieved this year, you have to understand that vending isn't just my job. It's a family thing. My little brother also works at the stadium with me, and my older brother is the one who started the job at the Kingdome in Seattle and pulled us in. Even before that, my father and his brothers were vendors. In fact, my mother and father met while they were both working at the Brewers stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Vending is in my blood. By the end of the year, I will have achieved three goals in vending, and I've already got two down.

    My first goal was a personal one; I wanted to work at every major stadium in Seattle. I began my career at the Kingdome (although I didn't vend there), and I began vending when Safeco Field opened up. I worked at the Key Arena (Sonics basketball) over winter break, even though the pay was fairly dismal. When Qwest Field (formerly know as Seahawks Stadium) was finally built, I also started there. I had four fields down, so Husky Field - the college football stadium - was my last challenge. I've been trying to vend there for several years, but I never lived in Seattle during the fall college season because of my own college studies. This year, I'm out of college, and I finally had the chance to work a game and achieve my goal. I must say that I was a bit disappointed; while Husky Field is beautiful and historic, it's not a great place to vend. Mostly, it's a combination of lots of drunk students behaving badly with the uneven, worn concrete steps and small aisles. Still, a job is a job, and I've done my job all over Seattle.

    My second goal is one held by ever vendor in my company. We chart our progress my dollars made in sales. A typical day at the baseball stadium can be anywhere from $400 to $700 in sales for the average vendor, and it's a bit higher at football games (go figure - I'm not sure why either). The big benchmark is $1,000 in product sales. At 15% commission, that gives you roughly $150, though it is more like $140 after taxes. Still, it's a big goal, and I've never been able to achieve it. I'm 5'4", a bit pudgy, and not really athletic. While I do just fine vending, I've never been a top seller. However, just last week, I finally broke a thousand. I've been working out recently, which I presume has raised my stamina and speed while weighted down. Last Sunday, there were only three vendors at Qwest Field (normally, we have five), it was a cold day, and we were selling hot chocolate. The start was a little dismal, and I had to return to the vending room with a few unsold product. To make up for it, I began to take a few extra hot chocolates on each tray, and it ultimately added up to push me to $1,008.75 in sales. This was 269 hot chocolates in about four and a half hours!

    My third and final goal of the year will be met today, on Christmas Eve. My brothers will be home for the holidays, and the three of us will finally have the chance to all vend together. We're worked together before, but we've never all been vendors at the same time. I'm quite excited to work with them.

    Vending isn't my life, but it sure is a wonderful job. It has seen me through high school and college with money in my pocket and more in the bank. The money I've saved allowed me to study abroad in Europe, purchase a digital camera, and learn about wise spending. I'm not sure if I'll continue vending through graduate school (I suppose it depends on what city I go to), but I know I've learned a lot from my 8 years of work with my company. You can't be shy while vending successfully; and you can see how polite behavior, quick math, and speed all add up to greater profits. I definitely hope my children carry on this family tradition.

    Leah Penn writes penn

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    "I'm 5 years old and my dad's a giant sitting beside me."

    Music Nizlopi's JCB Song should be the Christmas number one and really, is one of the songs of the year. I played it for my parents on Saturday for the first time and by the end, tears were streaming down my face. It has that ability, and I would say the same for The Sunscreen Song of making the listener want to hug someone immediately afterwards and particularly in this case your Dad.

    For once, there is a song which evokes feelings of love, not of a romantic nature but for a parent. Although not many people will know what its like to be on sitting beside their father on a JCB, they do know that feeling of being protected by a paternal figure; but this is something we've all lost. At some point as part of the growing up process we all learn that he's not the superhero that we thought he was when we were a child. The he's just like us really only older and somewhat wiser.

    There are also the cultural references, to Transformers, Zoids, Bruce Lee and the A-Team van. Obviously these will be particularly noticable to people of a certain age (me) for whom these were also childhood heroes (me). I'm not sure that much else would work in their place and indeed as usual part of the success of the song is the video, in this case the animation by Monkeehub, which features these elements but also that amazing moment at the end when the JCB sprouts wings and sours through the air as the child's and our imagination flies...

    Review 2005

    Alistair Myles

    Having lived so close to North Wales for so many years but never mustered the time or inclination to make a proper foray over the border, one of my highlights of 2005 has to be going on a trip to Llandudno. It might not sound much, and it's certainly no epic voyage through hundreds of miles of unrelenting countryside, but it was something I'd always longed to do, figuring it was about as far as I could get into Wales by train, have some hours to explore, and still get back home within the day.

    After an unprepossessing start picking my way through the rather grimy out-of-season detritus of such coastal high spots as Flint and Rhyl, the scenery suddenly opened out as the mountains of Snowdonia rose in the far distance and the huge open promenades of Colwyn Bay and Llandudno hoved into view. I'd expected both places to be pretty much deserted given the weather (bitterly cold, but brilliantly sunny) and the time of year, but no - they were bustling with shoppers and moochers and loads and loads of pensioners. All the same there was enough open space to feel properly alone and undisturbed, as I found when I got into Llandudno itself and marvelled at the row upon row of hotels and guest houses, none of which seemed to have any residents inside.

    I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with the few hours I had at my disposal, preferring to let my feet take me wherever they wanted and so avoid having too much of a pre-ordained plan of action. So I trekked down the pier and back again, consulted the giant war memorial, searched in vain for a decent bit of lunch, and browsed the generously positioned town maps for inspiration. All the while, however, my attention kept being drawn to the giant outline of the Great Orme: a huge outcrop of cliffs and hills towering above the town and dramatically jutting out into the Irish Sea.

    I knew the view from the top would be amazing, but both the tram and cable car service to take you there were closed.

    So in the end I just started walking. And I walked all the way up to the top, past warrens of houses cut into the rock at a multitude of auspicious angles, past the dry ski slope and toboggan run, past herds of mountain goats scrabbling their own way up the Orme, emerging to find one of the most fantastic, jaw-dropping panoramas I'd ever seen.

    There was something about being up there, with so many miles of openness all around and having accomplished such a climb, that helped turn the hour or so I spent loitering atop this titanic prominent into one of the most magical moments of the year. Sure, it was freezing cold and blowing a gale, but it'd been ages since I'd felt so out of the rituals and routines of normal existence, and so far from the clatter and confusion of the everyday. The light was such that I could see far far inland, as well as right out over the sea towards Anglesey - destination on a fair few family holidays - and back in the other direction towards Formby and Southport. For a time there was nobody else up there, and when the wind dropped there was a kind of silence so profound and unbroken as to be almost unsettling.

    I just could not believe that within 48 hours all of this would have been substituted for an office and a crappy computer screen a few inches in front of my nose. The contrast was almost too much to bear.

    Anyhow, the trip turned out to be everything I'd expected and way way more. It reminded me of how important it is to make the effort to see the kind of country that lies out of sight just round the corner. And it supplied me with a host of images and emotions I can, if I dig deep enough, still return to in those moments when I feel I'll never be able to escape my present less-than-happy circumstances ever again.

    Alistair Myles writes Visions Before Midnight

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

    Previous yearly reviews

    Archive Just in case new readers were wondering, I've been running a review like this annually for the past few years, so I thought it would be an idea to highlight some of things which happened previously.

    The first was in 2002 and tried to throw a personal twist on the reviews I was seeing in the media at the time.
    So that meant people who had shaped the year, Trinny Woodall, Mark Kermode, Avril Lavigne, Peter Jackson and Paula Radcliffe.
    In music, the UN concert celebrating the Nobel Peace Prize, tatu's promo for All The Things She Said, Radio 3's Late Junction and Jarvis Cocker on Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes.
    My top five films were Shallow Hal, Kissing Jessica Stein, Gosford Park, Changing Lanes and Baise Moi.
    I also talked about my three favourite moments for me: the Commonwealth Games, getting lost in translation in Paris and the death of Buffy.
    Then there was everything else and final lists.

    In Review 2003, I asked the people whose work I'd enjoyed over the previous twelve months five questions. Little did I realise I would have replies from future Oscar nominees, Doctor Who writers, magazine editors and rulers of their own country ...
    What was the best thing which happened to you personally in 2003?
    In general, which one thing in 2003 will have the most lasting consequences?
    Who was the best new person you met in 2003 and what was the first thing you talked about?

    Describe the one thing in 2003 which made you stop in your tracks and say under your breath 'That's so cool...'
    What do you predict for 2004?

    Last year, I posted a diary I'd kept for the whole of 2004 recording everything I'd watched -- television or film ...
    Introduction with January and February
    March and April
    May and June
    July and August
    September and October
    November and December
    ... you should have seen the manhours that went into recording that diary and intergrating all the links. Perhaps sensing that I'd just end up posting lists of things I also somehow managed also offer my favourite moments in films, music and television.

    Which brings us back up to date. I do hope you've been enjoying Review 2005. Plenty more to come.

    "Saw King Kong."

    Film I've seen some rave reviews of Mr. Kong, and I can understand really. Between the King and Naomi Watts there are some excellent performances in there and the special effects are spectacular. And the realisation of both Skull Island and 30s New York are extraordinary. But for some reason I was unmoved. It could have been the audience I was with -- mostly parents and kids who failed to react to everything but liked asking lots of questions (I mean when did 12A suddenly become PG?) but I think it's the length. I love long films. I think the Special Editions of The Lord of the Rings are just right. But somewhere in the middle of the film, in the Skull Island sequences when Adrian Brody and Jack Black have yet more stuff thrown at them I became a bit numbed to the action. I kept wanting the narrative to move forward, to be spending more time with Watts and the big ape and whatever they were doing. The dinosaurs are an important part of the original film and the battle with the T-Rex is spectacular, but there is only so many times that you can watch someone hanging off a cliff/tree/giant reptile before your eyes begin to glaze over. I like that the film is concerned as much with characterisation as monster animal things. The trouble is it has difficulty balancing the elements, so that when the film returns to New York it's a relief because you know that it's going to be ending soon. A shame because some of the best sequences are towards the climax. It just feels like its taken so long to get there...

    Review 2005

    David Campbell

    I have always thought that it would be cool to have a government file on me somewhere in the FBI or the Department of Defense.

    I wouldn't want a thick file or anything, and I certainly wouldn't want to have the government keeping tabs on me because I liked to make bombs or had extremist political views - I only want a modest little entry under my name in a DoD computer somewhere. That's not too much to ask.

    In the strange mix of reality and fiction that is my mind, having the government take an interest in me for "security reasons" is kind of cool. Now, I'm not a huge fan of The Patriot Act and wouldn't be terribly happy if I was on a government watch list because I checked out the wrong library books or something, but the geek part of me -the part of me that grew up on a diet of comic books and James Bond movies - loves the idea of my name being on a database in Virginia somewhere.

    This year, two special agents from the U.S. Navy Criminal Investigative Service visited my house to determine whether or not I was a menace to national security. I was thrilled. My wife was not.

    I did nothing illegal, mind you; I was just snooping around military bases during wartime with a video camera. From their perspective I can see how it might have looked suspicious, particularly since I drove away before the military police caught up with me. I'm dumb like that.

    The whole thing started when I had a free day and decided to take a trip up to Whidbey Island, a long island in the Puget Sound area near Seattle. I wanted to visit my friend Che, take a look at Whidbey Naval Air Station, and maybe get some footage of a prototype Naval warship that I had been reading about. What can I say, I'm a nerd, a strange combo of liberal peacenik and military buff.

    I visited the shipyard on the south end of the island where they were building the prototype ship, but the gal at the front desk told me that it had sailed for Everett a day earlier for painting before they did sea trials down in California somewhere. The ship, called only The X-Craft, is a big twin-hulled vessel designed for littoral combat in shallow water. It's very impressive and futuristic looking, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to see it.

    After the shipyard I drove up to Whidbey NAS, the home station for a bunch of carrier-based A-6 Prowler jets. I hung out on a hillside just outside the base for about an hour and got some excellent footage of the Prowlers doing touch-and-go landings. Little did I know, somebody had reported me to the MPs, who were en route to question me when I drove away at high speed. I had no idea they were after me, really. I was just speeding because I like to drive fast on occasion. Honest.

    The next day, while I'm at work, my wife opens the door to find two guys in suits and crew-cuts asking to speak to me. They got my license plate number and figured out who I was, even though the car is registered to my wife. She convinced them that I was just a harmless nerd and promised them that I would call and explain myself.

    When I found out about the Navy guys I was STOKED. Plainclothes federal agents, asking for me? It's almost flattering.

    I called one of the Navy agents the next day and explained myself. I was a military buff, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, I'm sorry about the trouble, etc. I seemed to set the guy's mind at ease - clearly I wasn't plotting to bring down an A-6 with a shoulder-launched missile or anything like that. But up to this point they hadn't specified exactly what it was that they were concerned about, only that the Navy thought I had been acting suspicious on Whidbey Island. So like a dumb-ass, I ask the Navy agent:

    "So, just out of curiousity, was all this about me taking pictures at the air base or was this about the X-Craft?"

    There's a pause, and then the agent says very seriously, "The X-Craft? What do you know about the X-Craft?"

    Oh, crap.

    I spent another five minutes on the phone convincing him that I had found out about the X-craft online, on a public Navy website no less, and that, again, I was just a curious geek. He finally bought it and I hung up the phone, heart beating a little faster. I could just imagine him in an office somewhere at Naval Base Kitsap typing notes into my case.

    Thus did I fulfill a secret goal of mine: to have a file, a dossier if you will, about me somewhere in The Halls of Power. I still have the Navy agents' business cards as a memento of my brush with a larger, more serious world that most of us never see. In this era of secret prisons and renditions and NSA wiretaps perhaps I shouldn't be too thrilled about catching the attention of the powers that be, but I kind of am.

    David Campbell writes Dave's Long Box

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.


    Music "...I'm delighted that the new girl is taking my place. She's so lucky to be getting one of the best jobs in the world! And certainly my leaving the band doesn't mean I won't be seeing Heidi or Keisha any more. We'll still be seeing each other and I'll definitely be taking Tah to all of their gigs..." -- Mutya leaves. So now the Sugababes only have one surviving member from the classic group. I'm mean I'm not obsessed with this stuff but really doesn't this picture look wrong to you? What happens if Keisha decides to leave? Thank goodness I'm home for Christmas, and I can start caring about things again...

    Review 2005

    Ian Jackson

    This year I traveled across to Ireland for the first time. I have lived and worked in and around Liverpool all my long life and the thought of hopping over the Irish Sea every so often was a constant but it just never happened. But this year the combination of Cork being the first European Capital of Culture and cheap one-hour lights direct from Speke (sorry, I mean Liverpool John Lennon Airport (sigh)) to Cork made it irresistible.

    Of course, you still have to turn up two hours before take-off and, of course, the flights were delayed, here and back. There was an extra delay on the return flight because a passenger had failed to board but they couldn't take off because she had checked in and her luggage was on board. It was less hassle to just wait for her to show than to find and unload her luggage. Needless to say she got some glaring looks when she eventually boarded, half an hour late.

    Cork's culture efforts were a bit disappointing but its not a huge town and didn't have a lot of funding. Its a lovely place though with the river meandering through the centre it seems you always have to cross at least one bridge just to get anywhere. Lots of nice pubs of course and he hospitality of the natives is no myth. I kept missing the pub musicians though! Every time I arrived they had just finished or left to go elsewhere, shame.

    I also had time to spend a day in the lovely seaside village of Kinsale. So that's Ireland done, next year the Capital of Culture is Patras in Greece, not been there before, then its Luxembourg, ditto. Then in 2008 its right on my doorstep, which will be nice.

    Ian Jackson writes Art In Liverpool

    For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.