5 Jan 2008

Ten Of The Rest - 2007 In Review

10. Fad Of The Year - Listing Things! This was really a year for listing things. The proud tradition of listing has been around a while, of course, but in 2007 it practically became the journalistic standard. Need to do a snappy prĂ©cis of some facts, without too much information? Then a list's the thing. Perfect bite-sized journalism for the world of the soundbite. There's a damn good selection of them here. The thing about lists is that they can never be complete. People have tried in vain to make definitive top tens, but there's no way that's possible. Try naming the ten best or worst of anything, and you'll still be losing another ten, or hundred possible additions. So with that in mind, here's the rest of my top ten for 2007! 9. Movie Of The Year - Grindhouse For film critics, nerds, and me, this movie was spectacular. Tarantino and Rodriguez, two of the biggest film nerds in the world, came together to create a tribute to old-school moviemaking. The product was a hoot from start to finish - a genuinely fun film experience. But unfortunately, everybody else in the filmgoing world (that is, 95% of the audience) didn't get it at all. Which is fully understandable, because "Grindhouse" was aimed directly at that nerdy 5%, and made no allowances for it. So it flopped commercially, and was redone for foreign release; both sub-movies have been lengthened and released as individual features. It's a shame : we got the movies but lost the whole experience that "Grindhouse" was supposed to be. Nonetheless, true nerds will find a way. For me, the original "Grindhouse" flick ranks as movie of the year. It was actually fun to watch, it drew on film traditions that I love, and had some great scenes. (Notable mentions : "Control" was beautiful, the "Simpsons Movie" didn't totally suck, and "I Know Who Killed Me" was fucking hilarious.) 8. Ripoff Of The Year - Victoria Crosses Theft Somebody actually broke into our national war museum, and stole nine of the eleven Victoria Crosses there (plus a lot of other medals). That totally sucked. I'm well aware that they're just lumps of bronze, but those lumps were bought at an incredible price in valour. To think they've been nabbed just to decorate the wall of a perverted collector is very depressing. This theft did produce some galling reactions - a televised advert featuring various "celebs" pleading for the medals' return was downright bizarre. But I was angry at the idea that a piece of our fragile national heritage was so casually lost. The significance had probably been heightened by the award, in 2007, of a Victoria Cross to a Kiwi serviceman - the first such award in sixty years. Bill Apiata's story couldn't have been scripted better, and the remarkable effect it played on the national consciousness made the Waiouru theft all the more significant. 7. Album Of The Year - P.J. Harvey's "White Chalk" I've always been devoted to this Dorsetshire earth goddess, but after the majesty of "To Bring You My Love", I kinda fell away from her music. That was until this year, and the release of "White Chalk" had me falling in love with Polly all over again. Putting aside her guitar, she turns to the piano, and produces a bunch of the best songs she's ever done. There's something weirdly Victorian about the whole thing, from the higher register to the album art. It seemed, to me, she'd gotten away from the glossy and violent world of her last few albums - being the female Nick Cave - and just got back to being the really creepy freakster she is. (Notable mentions : Shellac's "Excellent Italian Greyhound" and the Chemical Brothers "We Are The Night" were the other two big ones for me.) 6. War Of The Year - Cybercommand 2007 was the year when warmaking really took to the net. In April, Russian hackers assaulted the computer systems of Estonia's banks, police and government. In June, the U.S. claimed Chinese hackers were playing tag in the Pentagon's mainframe and wreaking all kinds of havoc. During the second half of the year, MI5 was warning corporations and governments about Chinese cyber war. Then, I start get spammed constantly by these guys from Beijing. Finally, in September, the U.S. set up the awesomely titled Air Force Cyber Command (or AFCYBER to his friends). The job of AFCYBER will be, it seems, to keep the internet free for America. It is the first online army. What does this mean? Well, my pretty, we're nearing the end of the Interweb Golden Age. The days of strict online policing cannot be far off. Also, warfare of any kind always does collateral damage. In this case, that damage would affect ordinary net users. EVERYBODY PANIC. 5. God's Wrath For This Year : The Taranaki Cyclones I live in a high-risk earthquake zone, with a volcano on my back doorstep. But in 2007, it was the cyclones that nearly got me. I had always imagined these shrieking, spinning demons are more at home on the great American plains, whisking people off to Oz, and such. But no! Turns out the Taranaki coastline attracts them, and we can expect lots more random shots from the sea from now on (see 1 below). It was the sheer unpredictable violence of the whole thing which caused the most damage. Not dissimilar to a random bombing or the like - chaos reaches out it's hand and messes you up. 4. Thing You Really Should Have Heard More About Of The Year : Whoops Apocalypse There's a few good candidates for this one, but I'd place this little nuclear boo-boo at the top of 2007 blunders. Someone loaded up a U.S. bomber with live nukes, and then it flew cross-country for a few hours. Although the nukes were not armed, the worst-case scenario of a crash could have been ugly. Bungling around with nuclear weapons isn't that uncommon - sadly - but this was a real bad screwup. Back on January 17th, they advanced the Doomsday Clock to five minutes to twelve. Depending on what happens in the next few months (have they invaded Iran yet?) that might tick even further to doom. 2007 seemed to have more than the usual share of turns for the worse…which kinda leads us into the next item on the list - 3. Big Deal Of The Year : Terror, Terror Everywhere Misery in Burma, bloodshed in Pakistan, war in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan etc; and to top it all off, supposed "anti-terror" raids in my own green little island. These raids were bizarre, embarrassing and ugly episodes that seemed so utterly out of place in the New Zealand I knew. Sure, I knew there was always plenty of idiots around, both in blue coats and hemp shawls, but I never figured either side would go as far as they did. Lunatic fantasies only fuel other lunatics, and the whole thing builds to an explosive resolution. Once the blustery hysteria died down and the whole miserable charade was exposed, things didn't get better. Far from finding room for compromise or mediation, both sides in this farce just dug in their heels further. Now we're left with the devil to pay, and a generally foul mood all round. I have a bad feeling I'll reflect back on this year as being a bad one for the country. 2. New Disco Of The Year : Blogging It has been the Elvis year of the blog. Certainly I have gotten into it something wicked. Whatever it's about - your pets, hair, deviant sex life - if you blog, they will read it. (Those three previous subjects will apparently bring you the best audience). While blogs really hit their stride about four years back, it is only in 2007 that they went fully mainstream. The power of blog plays a factor in politics, media relations and mass communication. It's the democratisation of the typed word, for better and worse. Everybody's got an opinion; if they have a keyboard then that becomes a blog. Of course, the thing about going mainstream is that it marks the beginning of the end. A friend opined to me recently that "blogging is the new disco, and it's 1976". I get what he meant - I've got at least two good years left to share my views on comics and movies and life before I become the cyber-Travolta. Enjoy it now, people! 1. Inescapable Thing Of The Year : Climate Change When my grandkids ask me about the days before the sun scorched the earth, when things called animals and ice existed, I'll tell them it was in 2007 that I really realised how climatically fucked we were. It was the year Al Gore got a Nobel Prize for standing there and looking serious. It was the year Bob "fook you I'm saving the world" Geldof yelled abuse at everyone over the turbines of his private jet. It was the year they very nearly destroyed the "Simpsons Movie" just to make a boring and laboured point about the environment. Yet with all this, every year since 2003 has been "the hottest year" (for the northern, or doomed, hemisphere anyway). Any ideas people? Because all this posturing doesn't seem to be working. So that was 2007. What a stinker. Note to world : must do better next year.

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