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.

Woody Allen's not Noam Chomsky

Film "Well, no. Because if I wake up, I'm going to be funny, because it's me. It's not that I put on a thing to do it; I wake up in the morning and I can write. I roll out of bed and I can write; I can write - that's what I do, that's me. So it would have to be a complete personality change for that to happen." -- Woody Allen interviewed by Emma Brockes in The Guardian.

Stones tapes and misled toe

Film Horrid to admit but I haven't stepped inside a cinema auditorium since Broken Flowers which considering I'm on film course is a terrible thing. I'm planning to catch up one day over the festive period and I was going to concentrate on the obvious blockbusters and let The Family Stone drift to dvd before I see it hearing Mark Kermode rip the film to shreds. Then John (who writes Sore Eyes) sent me the following email which suggested I think again:
"As a fellow founder-member of the Rachel McAdams fan club and a long-time member of the Claire Danes fan club, I've no doubt you'll be going to see 'The Family Stone' at some point if you haven't already done so. Just in case you're holding back because of boring trivialities like exams and essays and coursework, I suggest that you take a break and catch 'The Family Stone' before it disappears from the cinemas, squeezed out by a giant ape, a CGI lion who sounds like a Jedi Master, and a teenage wizard.

I've just got back from a screening and I can assure you that 'The Family Stone' is well worth a look, and not just because of the presence of the terrific twosome. It's an ensemble piece, so neither actress gets as much screen time as we'd probably like, but the cast is uniformly fine. Well, Dermot Mulroney is a bit wooden, but I think that was more down to the way his character was written: at times he seemed almost as different from his family as his uptight girlfriend Sarah Jessica Parker.

The film is a surprisingly enjoyable piece, with all sorts of fun being had by the ultra-liberal Stone family when they meet SJP's extraordinarily tightly-wound business executive. McAdams is the only one who has met her eldest brother's girlfriend before, and is the family member who does the most to undermine, embarrass and generally terrorise SJP. (SJP is terrific in this: she was all but unbearable in the last few seasons of 'Sex and the City' once she became a producer and could ensure that poor Carrie was always in the right, but this performance reminded me of how much fun she was in 'L.A. Story' as Steve Martin's young girlfriend.)

It's a somewhat predictable plot, but in a good way: you essentially know where the film is going to end up, so you can relax and enjoy the ride (which does take the odd detour just to keep us all on our toes.) I laughed out loud frequently, cringed in embarrassment a few times, and nearly had to brush away a tear once or twice. What more can you ask? (Except for more Danes and McAdams, that is.)
Thanks John. I too remember SJP's energetic performance in La Story (as I remember calling at the time) and also Flight of the Navigator. We missing that Jessica. Now all I have to do is work out how I'm going to fit those four in. Perhaps Narnia is going to have to stay in the wardrobe.

Review 2005

Suw Charman

How's this?

The brief for this post was to write about the moment when I succeeded in doing something I've always wanted to do this year, and I have to admit that in some ways it's hard to decide what that should be. So many really good things have happened this year and in many ways it really has been the culmination of years of hard work and fuck-ups.

(You are, ultimately, the sum of your fuck-ups. Only through fuck-ups do you truly learn anything, only through making a right pig's breakfast of something do you find out who you are, what you're made of, and how not to screw things up next time. Success is for wimps - vive la fuck-up!)

On the other hand, it's pretty damn easy. Lots has happened, but there's one thing that really stands head and shoulders above everything else.

Earlier in the year, I went over to San Francisco for the Supernova conference. Whilst I was there, I decided that it'd be great to take the opportunity to have lunch with the EFF's Danny O'Brien, someone that I was pretty in awe of. I'm not quite sure why, other than that he once gave a talk that had quite an impact on me.

By the time I met Danny for lunch I had decided that, now that my life was a bit more under control and I was keeping myself busy with real paying work, it was about time I started doing something constructive with my spare time. Not that I really had any spare time, mind, but I'd make some in order to volunteer for the EFF. I had this idea that I could use my journalistic and blogging skills to help them improve their communications, and so Danny sat patiently whilst I outlined my plans in, quite likely, excruciating detail.

When I finished, Danny glanced at his sushi, then at me, and said "Fancy doing something in London?"

I think I may have nodded my head vigourously, or said "Yeah, sure!" or made some other expression of interest and enthusiasm. However it was that I agreed, I had no idea then that by the end of the year I would be the Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, a new digital rights campaigning group in the UK.

Danny and I aren't alone in ORG - we're joined by a group of the savviest activists in the UK who are helping us organise things, and supported by over 1000 people, each pledging to donate £5 per month.

Possibly luckily, I didn't realise when I got involved in ORG just how much work is required to set up a new NGO, how challenging it would be, or how much I would enjoy it. I have a 'to do' list as long as your arm, and it's hard sometimes to balance the demands of ORG with the need to earn money to live off, but I'm doing my best and I think I'm really getting somewhere.

Maybe it's growing up on a literary diet of sci-fi and fantasy, but I've always been someone who looked at the way the world was, felt it really should be better, and tried to find a way to make it so. I never really considered myself the activist type - 'activists' being generally painted by the media as nutcases who burn down holiday homes or break into labs and release white mice into the wild. But with ORG, I'm seeing a side to activism that's rarely shown on TV or in the newspapers. The digital rights activists I've met are passionate, intelligent, well-informed, and willing to work their arses off to make life better for people who really, in general, won't ever notice that their rights were being abused.

I am really proud of what we have achieved so far with ORG, and what we have planned for the future. I'm proud to be a digital rights activist. And I'm grateful to be doing something I've always wanted to do.

Suw Charman writes Chocolate and Vodka

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

400 hits blows

Site News Ok, this is getting silly. My blog got over 400 hits today, which under normal circumstances would be a cause of celebration, except they aren't real hits. I'm looking at the referral logs and a massive percentage of them are click through from this link ...

The page is a search at Google Images and relates to a link with a post to an image of Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard film. I've looked at the origin of the referral and its from a different location each time. Anyone have any ideas why this would be happening?

Hey, man - everybody wants to be in a band, right?

Music "Are the White Stripes a band or a guy whose ex-wife likes to play drums?" -- Yankee Pot Roast dissect some disquieting modern trends, such as "'Bands' That Are Really Just One Guy Who Gave Himself a Band Name" and "Eva Longoria, Overexposed"

Bach again

Music I might have mentioned that I've been find an essay particularly problematical. I'm going through my usual process of blind panic, nerves and depression. Something usually drags me out of the slump and lightens things and this time its been Radio 3's Bach at Christmas. Really this is music from the Gods. I haven't heard anything I've disliked yet and its comforting to be able to turn on the radio and find something extraordinary at every moment of the day. The Guardian have a massive post on the subject which points out that there is a blog to accompany the event. They even have everything on listen again, in case there is anything you've missed.

"Isn't it entirely possible that he is in fact the Devil, crammed into the body of a handsome musician." -- Jen (Dawson's Creek)

TV ""Being on a show like Dawson's Creek for so long ... you spend so much of the year doing something you are not entirely invested in. So when you devote yourself to nine months of the year to that kind of work, you have to make awfully certain that you spend the three precious months off in a way that's true and not time-wasting." -- Michelle Williams -- my reason for still watching the show all the way through those six seasons everybody...

The Road To Beijing: Laura Baldwin & Abi Oyepitan

The Road To Beijing "If I'd done what I did in the first race yesterday and gone right, I'd have been well inside the top ten overall but as it was I went left! I finshed 20th. The pressure was huge for the last race so I gave it everything I had and was 3rd to the windward mark. I lost 3 boats on the secon beat to finish 6th which placed me 11th overall, one place behind GBR's Lizzie Vickers in 10th. I am happy with my performance at this regatta and I learned loads from Diego who was a fantastic coach! I have a lot to thank him for.. Thank you Diego!" -- Laura Baldwin updates us with a diary from Laser Radial World Championships.

Elsewhere Miss February, sorry Abi Oyepitan has been the driving force behind a 2006 calender, Ladies of the Track, Babes of the Field. No quote from Abi, but Miss April, Goldie Sayers (javelin finalist at the World Championships in Helsinki this year): 'I've always dreamt of it. [Her sarcasm probably does not translate too obviously into print.] My Mummy gave me boobs and a bum; not much good for training, but good for a calendar.' The BBC have images -- and really it's not what you'd expect ... [about]

Strange case of the missing Gap bag

Life I've bought a new bag. Case. Whatever. With my folder and all the books and bottles of water, my back pack's been getting progressively heavier and been giving me serious back ache to the extent I've found it difficult to sit down. I've seen Phd students throughout the university using small luggage cases on wheels and I decided that this couldn't just be a status thing and that other people should be able to do this too and so here I am now with a long handle and plenty of space to put things. True my feeling of displacement has increased because now I've pulling a case through the railway station every night, so I'm forever feeling like I've been on a long journey but the pains have all but gone and I actually don't feel as tired. My Gap bag will still get an aring. I can hardly take a case when I'm just out and about.

"This might sound to you a bit odd." -- Shakira (Underneath Your Clothes)

Music "But this goes beyond what I had hoped, because it is unhinged in some kind of fundamental way. It is not an avant-garde record by any means, but there is something extremely avant about Shakira's voice. This strange instrument, made up of equal parts Cher and Alanis and Nancy Sinatra, is always veering offtrack and back on, bursting into weird filigrees at odd moments because she just can't stop the emotions flooding her gypsy soul. Or maybe it's just because she's insane. Either way, it's thrilling and gives even the softer stuff here, like "The Day and the Time", an edge that most pop singers can rarely achieve." -- Matt Chiluba of Pop Matters review Shakira's new Oral Fixation, Vol. 2. I'm very excited. I especially like the cover which pleasingly bonkers and reminds me of the photographs which used to turn up on the old Top of the Pops compilations, with added symbolism. See also Matt's review of Laundry Service.

Introducing: My "fake girlfriend"!

Meteorology "I totally adore her, and my wife Elisa tolerates and even encourages it in little silly ways." -- Dave Ward talks about his (now not so secret) passion on flickr.

No. 80 Bus


No. 80 Bus
Originally uploaded by qwertyuiop.

Someone's taken this surreptitious shot of the bus I sometimes get home from the station. I wonder what the man on the far right is thinking about

Oh my god! It's so annoying!

Music "Oh my god! It's so annoying! Mutya's baby [Mutya Buena from the Sugababes] loves it, mind you. She laughs her head off at it. Look! I'll show you a picture! [Keisha shows OMM a photograph on her mobile phone of Mutya's baby laughing.] But I think to myself, who bought it, the Crazy Frog? Like really, though. Who thought, 'That's a wicked tune!'. Like, what's half the population on?" -- Keisha Buchanan features in one of the best music reviews of the year I've read, from The Observer. Parts of it just hilarious and bless her, Keisha displays a wit I've never seen before. Sudden nostalgia for the days when The Sugababes had soul.

Review 2005

Alan Sharp

It had begun almost a year before. That's when I had had the idea, and when I had known I could do it. I had tried before, many times, so many times. I had started, but the idea had been half-formed, and before too long I had run out of steam, and faltered, and given up.

But this time I knew it would be different. Because this time the idea was fully formed. I could see it, in my mind's eye. I knew exactly what I had to do. I knew exactly how to do it. It was achievable, attainable, and it would satisfy an ambition which had festered within me for as long as I could remember.

I won't pretend it was easy. It was hard work. It required commitment. At some point I realised it was not something I could do part time. I had to quit my job, throw myself into it totally, immerse myself in it, and trust that when I came out the other end I would be able to find work again to keep body and soul together. But I knew it would be worth the effort, worth the risk.

Fast forward to this year. It is the end of January. I receive a phone call, at the office, in a whole other city at the company I started working for six months earlier. It has arrived. I leave the office, head home, and there is the van, offloading boxes in the street.

I sign my name on the form attached to the clipboard. I carry the boxes up three flights of stairs and into the door of my flat. I put them down in the living room and, pulling the first box towards me, I break the masking tape urgently, hurriedly, impatient now to see the fruits of all my labours. I pull the box open, almost tearing it apart. And I lift the first one out, hold it in my hand, gaze upon it in wonder. I can't believe what I am looking at. I can't believe that at long last, after all these years, it finally exists.

288 pages. With my name on the front cover.

Alan Sharp writes Random Burblings

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

Could it be I'm? No.

Life I picked up this postcard when I was an undergraduate at an art gallery. Every now and then it becomes relevant. Saying nothing about its relevancy now ...

Christmas and crushes

Life This weekend is Christmas preparation time, with the tree and decorations installed, the lights up in the hallways and the cake in the oven. I don't think I have any more presents to buy, although I'm sure once I've started wrapping I'll think of something else I should have included. Its certainly been more difficult this year and I think it's because time seems to be contracting as I get older. There was one item I thought I'd bought for someone this year and then I realised I'd actually given it to them as a gift last time (which would why I couldn't find it in the bag with all the rest), it just doesn't seem so long ago.

Sorry I've been letting other people words speak for me these past few days and weeks, but the studying crunch is happening and I'm slightly overwhelmed. Again today I've been finishing a presentation for the final seminar of the year on Monday (on Tarkovsky and Douglas Adams and their use of sound) and trying to chip away at an essay. It's all very well having big ideas, but then being held back by your own mediocrity in the application. I'm enjoying myself though which is really the main thing.

Let me sing you a waltz...

Film "I did a big Hollywood action film, American Werewolf in Paris, and it was a total failure. It didn't make money. The film was not very good. That's when I decided not to do movies unless I fully believe in them. It doesn't matter if it's a big movie or a smaller movie, there must be something about it that I believe in. That's all. But it's not easy. My agent dumped me when I was writing Before Sunset, because he thought I was wasting my time." -- Julie Delpy on the trials of Hollywood. I liked American Werewolf in Paris, the bungie jump at the beginning especially. [via]

Review 2005

Mimi Leigh

Ahhh, 2005. Two thousand and five. The sum of its parts is seven. 7, a lucky number, no? Seven dwarfs, Seven Sacraments, The Seventh Sign. Seven opportunities a week to not want to get out of bed.

What's that stress list? You know, the one that rates levels of stress associated with life changes? Well, I think my score is actually right at 2005. But it's not all bad.

I actually DO want to get out of bed now. This year took me away from my shoebox cubicle where I sold gourmet cookies by phone, but REALLY updated my blog and refreshed Gawker 6 times an hour. I woke from a blog/cookie induced stupor one day and decided that I really could be doing something better with my life that didn't involve chocolate chips or the latest news on Vincent Gallo. My deus ex machina---the classroom.

Yes, I started teaching 7th grade Language Arts just a few months ago. And I set my wedding date the same day that I accepted the job. Perhaps I actually had a death wish.

85 little 13-14 year olds keep me crazy every single day. And I love it. I always wanted to teach high school, but I feel relieved that I didn't get my wish. These little hellions are everything I never thought they would be. They're funnier, they're MUCH more mature (they have sex!!! gag), they're much smaller in stature that I expected, they're completely and unforgivingly unmotivated, they're hip, they're tragically unhip, they curse, some smoke, some drink, some have marijuana tattoos on their forearm and used to be in a gang, some are gay and haven't admitted it yet, some have to pee every day at exactly 9:26, some give me their food that they don't want every day at lunch, some have had open heart surgery and others have had brain tumors. All in all, even with their faults, they're a colossal joy. I find it hard to get angry with most of them. Example:

Today I was sitting on my stool in front of the class a few minutes before dismissal. Students were gathered around me, competing for my attention as usual, when I suddenly felt something funny on my bottom. Charles (names have been changed to protect the innocent) was idly drawing on my ASS with a big pink piece of chalk. ON MY ASS.

I said "Charles dear, I know it's such a temptingly large canvas, but please refrain from touching my bottom with that pink extension of your finger."

He is apparently so comfortable with me that he just giggled. I went to wipe off the pink evidence and he preemptively took his little hand and RUBBED MY BUTT, yes RUBBED MY BUTT to erase his designs. I should have gone crazy on him, but it was only then that he realized that anything he was doing was inappropriate and he then looked a bit sheepish and apologized.

These are my days, and it sure beats selling cookies.

Mimi Leigh writes 72hrchikdom

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