I was going to blog something personal tonight, some thoughts about the world and my take on something happening in it.

Instead I got stuck at work for two hours past the end of my shift making sense of this ship covered in ice.

Please accept it in lieu of original thinking, or at least that which occasionally passes for it.


This is not amusing.

Okay, maybe just a little bit.

Especially Goals Allowed and the picture of Shay Given surrounded by kittens.

As Homer says, it's funny because it's true.

But don't let me catch you laughing. It's cruel to mock the afflicted.


So as promised, here are my "cultural" high points of last year. I'll explain the rules as I go along. The first one being that these aren't presented in any meritocratic hierarchy, just the order in which they occurred to me.

I find choosing a group of favourites difficult enough at the best of times, it's not a task I take lightly, and I'm not going to demean any of my selections by ranking them. So there.

And unless I decide otherwise, there are five entries in each category.

Ready? Then I'll begin.

Movies (any film seen at a cinema while on general release is eligible)
Good Night, And Good Luck - Clooney's mad as hell with the submissive nature of television news in the face of government corruption and ineptitude and he's not going to take it any more. Plus David Strathairn is just brilliant.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - deliciously odd, just what one expects from Wes Anderson

Serenity - Fox are stupid. Firefly should still be running. Maybe following the success of this movie they want to give it another crack, with one change - stop screwing around with the schedule. They should be so lucky.

Garden State - I'm not too keen on actors dallying as directors, but Zach Braff is allowed to make more films if they're as good as this. I'll forgive him the Hollywood ending - I've heard even he thought it was wrong. Plus the soundtrack rocks.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang - clever clever, laugh laugh. Nuff said.

Sideways - even socially-challenged borderline alcoholics who steal from their mothers need love. And the fact that the Academy ignored Paul Giamatti's turn as Miles just goes to show what a bunch of idiots they are. Again. Don't get me started.

Bubbling under: The Woodsman, Batman Begins, Team America: World Police, Hitchhiker's Guide, A Very Long Engagement

Nowhere near: Star Wars Episode III

Somewhat depressingly these are almost all English language (with the exception of Engagement, which didn't make it into the top tier because lovely though it was, it just felt a little Jeunet-by-numbers to be truly captivating - maybe a second viewing would change my mind), so no Downfall, Kung Fu Hustle or Night Watch - must do better this year. Mind you, those are out as I can't reasonably claim anything I haven't seen, so no Kong, Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Corpse Bride or countless others.

Special archival mention has to go to Three to Tango, which not only proved to be a superior romantic comedy (an oft-unfairly maligned genre), but also created a good game for Jen and me to play on the way back from Lake Burton.

Music (criterion: released in 2005)
Hung Up - Madonna (gratuitous number one pick, catchy as hell, but the genius is in the Abba)

Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz (difficult to jettison Dare, Dirty Harry and others, but this just snuck it)

Gracie - Ben Folds (there are "better", more worthy tracks on Songs for Silverman, but I just love the simplicity and honesty of this one)

Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall (I could have chosen any of half a dozen tracks from her album, making this selection pretty much arbitrary. And Scottish women are hard to beat.)

The Bold Knight - Seth Lakeman (Actually gives me shivers up the back of my spine. Okay, it was technically released in 2004 along with the rest of Kitty Jay, but I didn't discover it until late last year, along with most of the rest of the universe. Plus it was eligible for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize, and it's gorgeous, so I'm having it.)

I feel my age and how little time I spend listening to music radio show through awfully here. Picking five was difficult enough, and I'm not even sure it's my top five, as I can't remember everything I heard. I've probably forgotten some classics, and I've have loved to get a new Cardigans track in there, but none's grabbed hold of me yet. But it would have been easier had I not limited myself to one track per artist. Tell you one thing though, I definitely don't care for much British guitar-based rock/pop at the moment.

Books (criteria: read, but not necessarily published, in 2005; but published within last five years; hey, it's my list - if you don't like my rules, go make your own)
Empire Falls/Richard Russo - accidentally recommended (by Jen again - she meant to tip Straight Man) but a cracking read nonetheless, with some beautifully crafted characters

The Algebraist/Iain M Banks - Dwellers are his best creations since the ships of Excession. Oh, and I want a Planetary Protector (Deniable).

The Meaning of Everything/Simon Winchester - just to show that the best stories don't have to be fiction. Anyone interested in words should read this book.

Lost in a Good Book/Jasper Fforde - not too intelligent, well-informed and witty for its own good... but only just

America: The Book/The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - although I only got it for Christmas (thanks Sam!) and haven't finished reading it, this can't not go in, even if it means excluding the likes of Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Buckley from the fifth spot. I have other things to say about the show that inspired this book, but they'll have to wait.

The one-eyed god (rules pretty much go out the window)
New TV show - US: Weeds - gloriously funny and very watchable even if it didn't star Mary Louise Parker, but the fact that it does makes it unmissable

New TV show - UK: Nathan Barley - the twisted genius of Chris Morris strikes again

New TV show - UK MkII: The Thick of It - the satirical brilliance of Armando Iannucci strikes again

Old TV show - Doctor Who - Christopher Eccleston made a decent enough Doctor, a trophy for the relaunch but I suspect David Tennant outshine him. Eccleston regarded the Tardis as an interesting folly but was never likely to stick around. Young Casanova, on the other hand, will really own the role.

That's it. Feel free to argue.