Thursday, 31 December 2009

Walkie talkie

A few months before the Noughties began, I was walking down Las Ramblas in Barcelona with my then boss, and he started talking and chuckling to himself, then shouting in French. I really thought he’d gone mad, until I realised he had one of those new-fangled hands-free, in-ear phone thingies; the first time I’d ever seen one. (Or not seen one, which is part of their appeal, I suppose.)

Then, 10 years on, a few months before the Noughties ended, I was in Marks & Spencer in Croydon when I saw a man coming down the escalator, talking to himself. I presumed he had one of those by-now-tediously-ubiquitous hands-free, in-ear phone thingies; and then I realised, no, he was just mad.

That, I think, goes part of the way to summing up the decade. Not my journey from Barcelona to Croydon (there’s another tale entirely) but the extent to which things that so recently were startling, almost uncanny, have so quickly become ordinary, unremarkable. And how often we forget the people who get lost down the cracks that those changes leave behind.

And as the Noughties finally trundles towards oblivion, it would seem a good time to bid farewell, although I may pop up with a few relevant nuggets in the coming months; for one thing I’ll almost certainly be nagging you to watch BBC2’s History of Now, which begins next week. If you’ve purchased my book, thank you, and if you’ve read it, even better. Why not tell us what you thought of it, either here, or at Amazon, Waterstone’s, Book Depository or the like? If you haven’t yet done so, from tomorrow you’ll have the perfect perspective from which to tell me how utterly wrong I really was about the decade, since it will finally have made the transition from Current Affairs to History. I always intended the book not to be a definitive statement, but the opening salvo in a debate, an argument, a conversation.

Over to you.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hair today


Forget all those best book, best film, best album polls: Glastonbury supremo Michael Eavis has seen off Fidel Castro and Monty Panesar to be named as Beard of the Noughties.

Also: a joint review of The Noughties and my Leonard Cohen tome in the Bangkok Post; and I’ll be popping up on Radio New Zealand some time tomorrow to chat about CCTV, Donald Rumsfeld, China and stuff. Hope to post details, links shortly.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Nearly done

Well, my rant against small children on TV talent shows didn’t make it to the final cut of The Greatest TV Shows of the Noughties (tonight at 9pm on Channel 4) but feel free to watch it anyway. And those of you in Scotland might like to read the retrospective I’ve penned for The Sunday Post, home of course of the magnificent Oor Wullie. Or you might not.

And in the Observer, David Mitchell coins a neat phrase for the SuBo/Jedward/John Sergeant phenomenon: “mediocrity chic”. While the Times looks ahead to 50 trends for the Teenies. Parasitic shoes. Cool.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Noughties Noel

Hoping the last Christmas of the Noughties is good for you all. See you on the other side.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Nothing is real

AA Gill in the Sunday Times defines the Noughties as the age of the amateur:
“Reality” grew to mean a particular type of closely choreographed and edited ultra-reality — a hyperventilating, tearful, exhibitionist spectacle initially hailed as the democratisation of television. Or, alternatively, as the lunatics taking over the asylum.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Making up the deficit

Had completely overlooked these kind words from the big cheese of book blogging, Scott Pack, who suggests that The Noughties “might make a good gift for an older teenager who might not have been paying attention when the decade started or for anyone interested in contemporary cultural history.”

Unspeak

Perhaps we should just call the decade unnerving or unsettling or even unhinged.
—The BBC’s Matt Frei puts the Noughties to bed.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Great minds


In partial vindication of my own musical judgement (in Chapter Eight of The Noughties), Rolling Stone magazine has dubbed Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ as their song of the decade, with Radiohead and Green Day also showing up on the list, although Lily Allen is strangely absent.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The decade as disaster movie

Toby Young on the way death and destruction became a sort of Noughties pornography:
One of the most striking things about the Noughties is that when terrible things did happen – when planes really did start falling out of the sky – we greeted them with barely concealed excitement... it was the way these phenomena were latched on to, the apocalyptic fantasies they gave rise to. It was as if people wanted the world to be consumed in an orgiastic frenzy of ultra-violence, whether at the hand of Mother Nature or an Islamist cell in possession of a ‘dirty bomb’.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Wrong ’uns

What’s it like to have your obituary written when you’re still alive, and then to find out that everyone hated you? Check out the people who ruined the Noughties.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Look east

In Chapter Nine of The Noughties I covered the dramatic economic shifts that took place in the decade, mostly to the advantage of China, India and other nations we still insist on describing as ‘developing’. Further hints that the next decade could see Asia pushing ahead of Europe as a global financial centre: business confidence in Shanghai and Mumbai makes London and New York look timorous.

Who was who?


Presidents and entertainers scrap it out as The Times picks its people of the Noughties: Barack Obama just pips Simon Cowell to the top spot, while David Beckham edges George W Bush from the Top 10.

Meanwhile, last week’s BBC review of the people, stories, things etc of the decade comes to fruition, accompanied by a sage commentary from Peter York, Susie Dent, er... me...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Digesting the decade

What was the best meal you had in the Noughties? For me, it was breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. In the Telegraph, Jasper Gerard dips his finger into the gastronomic decade and has a good lick.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

And finally...

From the monkey-suited superhero to the exploding whale, some of the best stories take place away from the headlines. The Toronto Sun picks the quirkiest news nuggets of the Noughties.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Cereal killer

If anybody’s awake just before eight o’clock tomorrow morning, I’m scheduled to be talking about newsworthy deaths of the Noughties on the Weekend Breakfast programme on Radio 5live. In advance, I apologise for any pre-porridge grumpiness.

The darnedest things

A slightly different perspective on the Noughties: the decade according to people who’ve known no other:

The decade according to 9-year-olds from allison louie-garcia on Vimeo.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Screened out

If one fact sums up the strange cultural shifts of the Noughties, it is this: if you Google the word ‘book’, the first result you get is ‘Facebook’.

Reel stinkers


Ah, here’s the sort of Noughties list we can all have fun with; the worst movies of the decade. It was the Indiana Jones comeback, unwieldy title and all, that did it for me; it represented the worst sin that a sequel can commit, tainting the original.

And in a similar vein, The Guardian asks for our worst books of the decade; “It's also hard to avoid mentioning Dan Brown,” says Sam Jordison, and that’s enough for me.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Objectification

Although many of us lived the Noughties in a virtual haze of ones and zeroes, there was still a lot of stuff around. At the BBC magazine, style guru Peter York pinpoints the objects of the decade.

These we have loved


A tradition of end-of-decade journalism is the mass obituary, but it’s not just people who died during the past 10 years. New York magazine mourns the loss of everything from the Rolodex to the porn mag, in its selection of Noughties obsolescence.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Events, dear boy

On the BBC site, I muse about the big news stories of the decade, and wait for the punters to weigh in with theirs. Wondering how many will be brave enough to suggest anything other than 9/11.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Order, order

In The Guardian, Marina Hyde weighs in the whole Noughties list thing. Although that’s not enough to stop her own paper from identifying the 50 books that defined the decade. How many have you read?

And with regards to the raw material of books, Countdown’s very own Susie Dent asks for our words of the decade.

Monday, 7 December 2009

At least somebody remembered Interpol

More backward-looking chinstrokery from the music hack community: Simon Reynolds addresses the fragmented Noughties; and Rock’sBackPages does its own albums of the decade thing (with individual voters’ contributions, including your humble correspondent, itemised here).

Look both ways

Advance notice of a three-part programme on BBC2, scheduled for next month, that aspires the tell ‘the story of now’. Although, by the time it goes out, it’ll be the story of then. Won’t it?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Next!

It took us a long time to settle on ‘The Noughties’ as the label for the decade, and there are still plenty of people who aren’t convinced. Not surprisingly, there’s no consensus on where we’ll be from the beginning of next month. Here’s one Australian suggestion: The One-ders.

Not convinced? OK then, what do you suggest we call it?

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Not going out like that


In the absence of any defining fashion trends for the Noughties, many frock fans simply turned their attention to what celebrities were wearing. Some observers, like the Go Fug Yourself blog, were even-handed: they castigated slebs for their crasser decisions, but were also generous to those who got it right. They were also careful to explain to those of us who don’t know Gucci from Pucci *why* some sartorial choices are just plain wrong. Others, as exemplified by this MSN article on the worst dressed stars of the decade, simply pointed and laughed. As did Lucy Jones of the Telegraph, although she was nominally applauding her subjects, which is even funnier.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Can I kick it?


Sport in the Noughties has been dominated by tales of money and drugs, but there were still a few glimmers of talent along the way. For football fans, here’s one version of the best half-dozen goals of the decade.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Going for gold

These Noughties polls and lists are truly getting out of hand; does anyone out there really want to vote for the Liberal Democrat Backbencher of the Decade, outside the small but vocal band that is Liberal Democrat Backbenchers' Mums? In The Guardian, Hadley Freeman neatly skewers the Hornbyesque obsession; meanwhile, in the comments, the equally geeky debate about the point at which the decade really ends (not for another year, insist the pedants) churns on and on...

Tinker, tailor...

I knew as I began to write The Noughties that my main problem would be one of perspective; because we were still in the midst of the decade, it would be very difficult to achieve any kind of objectivity. Eventually, I realised that, although I hoped to be fair and accurate, whatever I wrote could only be subjective. It was a snapshot, a conversation-starter, inescapably bound up in my own life and prejudices and interests and circumstances.

But still most of the media commentators seem to be under the delusion that they can provide some kind of all-seeing eye to the decade, pinpointing empirical truths.

Here’s an exception; in The Independent, 10 people – a banker, a doctor, a soldier and more – explain what the decade meant to them, and just to them. It may not be ‘The Truth’, but it’s honest.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A little less conversation

Was just going to post a reminder about the decade-related event at London’s Frontline Club tonight, only to discover it’s been cancelled. The event, not the decade.

Sole survivor

One of the few cheerful moments of the whole Iraq débacle came when Muntadar al-Zaidi lobbed his footwear at President George W Bush. Like flash mobs and happy slapping, it seems to have become a Noughties violence meme; now Zaidi himself has become a victim.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Pick of the propaganda

More democracy on the meaningless Noughties list front from The Guardian: now you can choose your favourite TV advert of the decade. I quite liked this one:

Hug this

From hoodies to Bernie Madoff, Intelligent Life gets to grips with what defined the decade. And also a reminder that the decade ain’t over until its over, as demonstrated by Julia Peyton-Jones’s contribution:
Think of Dubai and what it represents: the idea that things can appear out of nowhere as if ready-made: it didn’t exist a moment ago and now here it is, fully formed. And what underpins this is the thing that underpins everything else: the pound or dollar sign.
Oops.

Monday, 30 November 2009

PS3 I love you


Of course, these Best-of-the-Noughties lists aren’t all cooked up by a tiny cabal of substance-snuffling hacks you know. Sometimes there’s a semblance of democracy, as with The Guardian’s request for your Game of the Decade. Anyone for Facebook Scrabble?

PS:
And the American Dialect Society is taking suggestions for its Word of the Decade.

Wishful thinking


Madison magazine (Australia) asked me to scratch my chin in the direction of Noughties pop culture. (Scroll down a bit; I’m between Politics and Fashion.)

More tea, vicar?


Of course, in a morally and culturally relativist universe, there’s no definitive answer as to what the most important event of the Noughties might have been. A life-changer in one person’s life may be a minor blip in another’s. The shocking events of 9/11 and their aftermath, maybe? The financial crash, or perhaps devastation of the Asian tsunami? On a happier note, the technological innovations that brought what, 10 years ago, was the stuff of science-fiction, into the hands of the man or woman in the digital street? Or, of course, the fact that this was the decade in which Judas Priest got their old singer back. Rraaawwwwkk!!!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Bum rap

And as the Observer Music Monthly just fails to make it to the next decade, they dub Beyoncé the artist of the current one (although the readers don’t seem to share the enthusiasm). That said, she has introduced an excellent new word to the Noughties lexicon:

Nothing doing


In the Mirror, Brian Reade lays into the decade:
Looking back on it is almost as painful as looking at 40 photos of the office bore’s new baby. From the opening non-event in the Millennium Dome and the opening story, the Millennium Bug, it’s been 10 years of scares and scams. From jihad to Jedward, a decade that effectively started with a bang (9/11) and ended with a twitter.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

One f***ing thing after another

Back to those lists, I’m afraid: Stuart Evers suggests 50 books of the Noughties; Skylar Jordan does the songs; Liz Frost’s favoured beauty products; and from Car magazine, the weirdest vehicles.

At least Q magazine does things a little differently. For a start, it avoids the awkwardness that many still feel about the word ‘Noughties’ by claiming that it’s offering up lists of the Artists and Albums ‘of the Century’. Which is accurate as far as it goes, but only postpones the agony for another 10 years, at which point presumably they’ll have to make a call on ‘Teens’ versus ‘Tens’.

Moreover, they get a bit Zeitgeisty by presenting the Top 100 not as a poll, but as the individual choices of ‘noted folk’, which is really a euphemism for ‘celebrities’. So we discover that KT Tunstall likes the Flaming Lips and Dizzee Rascal favours Young Jeezy, which is fair enough; but do we really need to know the choon preferences of Stringer Bell, the Master or Spongebob Squarepants? OK, I’ll give them the last one. He likes Oasis, by the way. Bless.

PS:
Paul Morley doesn’t like those lists. Or does he?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Snuffles


In The Noughties, I argued that the real beginning and end of the decade occurred within a few blocks of each other, in New York. As the Dubai economy stumbles, could we be seeing the beginning of the next decade, when it’s what happens in Asia and the Middle East – rather than the tired old West – that really grabs our attention? When Dubai sneezes, how many of us are going to catch a cold?

PS: Charlie Brooker addresses the essential preposterousness of the whole thing.

Not with a bang but with a beeper


Wikileaks has published the content of 500,000 pager messages sent on September 11, 2001. On 9/11, most of us wouldn’t have been able to get our heads around an idea such as Wikileaks. Now, at the end of the decade, some of us probably can’t get our heads around pagers. What other facets of the early part of the Noughties now seem quaint or even inconceivable to a child growing up at the end of the decade? Record shops? Terrestrial TV? One or two politicians you might trust with your wallet? (And on the subject of 9/11, can I just offer one more plug for what might just be the best novel of the decade, Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World? I just did, anyway.)

Thursday, 26 November 2009

What a Decade That Was

I’ll be discussing the Noughties at the Frontline Club in London next Wednesday, December 2, at 7pm. More details here.

The Nene meme


A Japanese man has married a video game character. It’s a definitively Noughties story however you look at it. Either it sums up the extent to which many people exist in a state utterly divorced from ‘reality’ as most of use would define it; or it’s a classic case of the way respectable media organisations, lacking both time and resources, now pick up commercial stunts and virals masquerading as news and regurgitate them without even cursory fact checks. With a dlightly patronising side order of “only in Japan!”, of course.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

That’s what she said


Flipping through the NME’s commemorative Noughties edition is slightly disturbing for an old fart like me, not least because the editor reveals that as the new millennium dawned, she’d just turned 18. But they do offer a few decade-specific words and phrases that escaped our linguistic dustbuster. (See pp 167-174.)

Cougar (noun) A sexually aggressive older woman prone to preying on young men.

Fail (noun) A fail is not quite the same as a failure: the latter is something that wakes you up in cold sweats at 3am, while a fail is more of a matter for light-hearted ritual public humiliation in a knickers-tucked-into-your-skirt kind of way.

Nang (adjective) London kid word for good. Acceptable if you’re 14 and from Hackney.

Nintendonitis (noun) Wii-Fit related injuries prove that even pretend exercise can be dangerous.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Brother beyond


Lists, lists and yet more of the buggers. The Telegraph offers its version of the 100 TV shows that defined the Noughties; no argument with what’s at number one, depressing as it may be. And seeing The Wire sandwiched between X Factor and Strictly reminds us what telly can be, and what it usually is.

(Younger readers may need to have it explained that the lady on the left is Helen Adams, who we thought personified stupidity in the Big Brother universe until Jade Goody showed up.)

Monday, 23 November 2009

The one with the whistly bits


And you can even vote for your favourite song of the Noughties.

(Is it just me, or has the decade finally degenerated into one huge I-Love TV show, with optional phone-vote extras?)

Full of it

A slightly jaded view of the Noughties, the title of which tells you all you need to know.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

How could we forget William Hung?

Again from the extraordinary link machine that is the lovely Miss Peel: Newsweek offers an excellent – if overwhelmingly Americentric – video overview of the past decade.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Net gains


From Craigslist to the Iranian protests, the Webby Awards pick the 10 most influential internet moments of the Noughties.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

That difficult fourth chord

NME offers its best albums of the Noughties; with a not-unexpected leaning towards skinny white boys with guitars. Here’s the Top 10, only the last of which made it into my list of the most significant releases of the decade (see Chapter 8):

1. The Strokes - Is This It

2. The Libertines - Up The Bracket

3. Primal Scream - xtrmntr

4. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell

6. PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

7. Arcade Fire - Funeral

8. Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights

9. The Streets - Original Pirate Material

10. Radiohead - In Rainbows

That said, if we’re talking favourites (a completely different matter, of course), numbers 6 and 7 would have to be in there, along with various bits and pieces by the White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Outkast, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Super Furry Animals and the High Llamas. What about yours?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Turn up the volumes (part 2)


The Times, not to be outdone, offers its own books of the Noughties, and inevitably there’s plenty of overlap with the Telegraph’s list. Oddly, though, this selection is defined as the ‘best’ of the decade; which, since it includes the likes of Twilight and The Da Vinci Code (which also tops the ‘worst’ list), this really raises more questions than it answers.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Turn up the volumes


The book was one of the few media formats that ended the Noughties in much the same shape as it began (although the increasing popularity of e-books of various flavours suggest that the next decade will tell another story). In the Telegraph, Brian MacArthur offer up 100 titles that define the Noughties.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Not so simple Simon


The nice people at Crimson books sent me an image of the cover for The Noughties book before it was printed, but only the front. It wasn’t until I was holding the real thing in my hands that I saw Simon Cowell decorating it. Initially, I thought it was a slightly camp, self-consciously ironic decision - but then, almost immediately, I realised that no, Cowell really is one of the most important people of the past decade, up there with Bush and Osama and all the rest. Marina Hyde says it better than I could:
Simon Cowell has created a system in which all possible outcomes benefit him. It is a sort of anti-chaos theory: a system wherein even vast differences in initial conditions have no real effect on the outcome. The system allows for them. You could run a million different variations of the show through a Los Alamos computer the size of a barn, and the end result would always be the same: Cowell wins. In the anti-chaos of The X Factor, a tsunami of votes for a rogue act would lead to the most butterfly-like of variations in his final scenario – the difference of about 37 pence in earnings of tens of millions. The house always wins. In fact, as a business model, it makes Las Vegas look bleeding-hearted.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Misunderestimation

Short but sweet review of The Noughties at the Life On Planet Me blog.

Fuzzy logic


Simon Reynolds (whose Rip It Up And Start Again was one of the best music-related books of the Noughties), scratches his unfashionably smooth chin over the status of beards in the decade.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Bon mot


The book gets plenty of coverage in the current issue of The Word magazine; not just a big review from Andrew Collins, but also part of a consideration of the Noughties (and other decades) by Jim White.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

I will try to prefix you


The French writer Camille de Toledo endeavours to sum up the Noughties in his intriguing tome Coming of Age at the End of History (translated by Blake Ferris):

...But reality had lost the ability to examine itself through anything more significant than a prefix. The dominant spirit of the present has banished the image of cyclical time, of revolutionary time, and it now only dreams of a future covered in endless shades of gray. Instead of the radically new, all we’ve got is the cycle of fashion, seasonal novelty. A universe of tiny little variations on the same thing, just with more beats, more bass notes and more nothingness. The novelty item! That’s why we keep going back to music stores, to newsstands, to supermarkets and to bookstores. Post, post, post, after, after, after, new, new, new, neo, neo, neo. The whole bundle of prefixes is repeated with the incantatory passion of a high priestess in heat. Maybe sometimes with good intentions, but IN VAIN!

Good as far as it goes... except, when did you last set foot in a music store?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The last farewells


A few more that might have been included in the obituary section (pp 175-180): the Guardian identifies 10 species that we lost in the Noughties. Farewell to the Baji dolphin, the golden toad, the Western black rhino and more.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hey, what happened to Bonekickers?


Sky TV asks us what we thought the best shows of the Noughties might have been. When I last checked, two BBC shows were tying for first place, which is amusingly off-message, but at least nobody’s going to complain that this is a stitch-up – which seems to be a running sore as far as TV-related votes go in the Noughties.

Anyway, what was your top show?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Aught for your comfort

On the recommendation of the lovely M.A. Peel, a smart blog that aims to identify a hundred cultural memes for the Noughties: gay marriage; vampires; jukebox musicals; ponchos and more.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

What, no Wrestler?

The Bourne franchise at number two? Really? The Times gets a bit provocative with its 100 best films of the decade.

(And the same from the Telegraph, although at least Mickey squeezes in here. But still some major gaps. What do you think?)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Looking back at looking back

At Spiked, Patrick West suggests that The Noughties was defined by nostalgia for the Nineties, Eighties, Seventies...
No wonder Philip K Dick’s stories have become so popularised in cinematic form - in the guise of Minority Report (2002) and A Scanner Darkly (2008), which are both paranoid paeans to the past, and to the future. And no wonder Danny Dyer’s fake cockneyism has become popularised in a time when we all long for the ‘good old days’ when West Ham, Millwall and Chelsea fans could kick the shit out of each other. No wonder the backward-looking Life On Mars was a success. Even Dr Who has a decidedly retro feel about it. Yesterday and Dave and various Discovery and History channels have become successful avenues, and with good reason. The Noughties has been an epoch of endless re-remembering.

Friday, 6 November 2009

More farewells

Nelly Arcan, writer
Josette Baujot, illustrator
Ludovic Kennedy, writer, broadcaster
Claude Lévi-Strauss, anthropologist
Norman Painting, actor, writer
Robert Rines, cryptozoologist
Soupy Sales, comedian
David Shepherd, cricket umpire
Nancy Spero, artist
Joseph Wiseman, actor
Shaun Wylie, codebreaker

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

I'm guessing not

On BBC3 at 21:00 (and repeated several times thereafter, and on iPlayer, and probably soon to be available in suppository form) The Noughties... Was That It?

Will get back to you later with the unsolicited answer to that presumably rhetorical question.

[UPDATE: Well, since the talking-heads style Top-100 format was one of the definitive televisual forms of the decade, maybe It Was. I must admit to being slightly miffed that I wasn’t asked to contribute, but Will Self pretty much spoke on my behalf, especially when it came to The Da Vinci Code. And to clarify, it’s not undergoing multiple repeats - this was simply Part One of four programmes. What’s the betting that 9/11 is #1?]

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The end of the world as we know it


In the Conclusion to The Noughties, I indulge in a little amateur futurology, while acknowledging that such a practice leaves the author open to any amount of retrospective embarrassment. I wonder how, in four decades’ time, we’ll perceive Michael Hanlon’s Daily Mail article on the perils of the Internet:
It is a Britain, indeed a world, where the private individual has ceased to exist, and one in which an unholy alliance of the state and Mammon rules our lives with powers that would have made Stalin sick with envy.
Fear and technology indeed...

Remembrance of decades past


Frantically flicking through the Telegraph’s 100 defining cultural moments of the Noughties, to see which ones I missed. Damn that Proust translation.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Marty and Katie


Noughties culture might best be summed up by this; Martin Amis vs Katie ‘Jordan’ Price:
“She has no waist, no arse ... an interesting face ... but all we are really worshipping is two bags of silicone.”
And on roughly the same theme, at my other blog, I finally pinpoint the film that encapsulates the decade.

Baggy trousers

What went wrong in the Noughties: a South African view:
The rise of social media is ironic at a time when the consumerist egomania of the eighties has enjoyed a revival. There’s a reason MC Hammer pants are back in fashion and it’s not just because Vogue says so.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Lil communication


In Chapter Eight of The Noughties, I suggested that Lily Allen, above any other musician, was able to encapsulate the decade, both with the multi-platform nature of her rise to fame, and the uneasy combination of rampant consumerism and creeping paranoia that permeates her 2008 hit ‘The Fear’.

But now she claims to have moved on, giving up MySpace, Twitter, even YouTube. “I’ve thrown away my laptop,” she says. “I haven’t got a Blackberry and I listen to records. It’s amazing.”

Records, eh? I remember them. The question is, has she stepped back to the analogue Nineties; or simply defined a new agenda for the Teens?


Comin’ back atcha

Cory Doctorow on the British government’s ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ proposals for dealing with illegal downloaders and other copyright violators:
To understand just how disproportionate this is, consider the corollary: what if Peter Mandelson proposed a rule to terminate the internet access of any movie studio or record company accused of three baseless copyright claims against the public? We could go down to all Universal offices and data centres with a huge pair of boltcutters and snip its net wires at the junction box.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Tommy trouble

Thank you to Russell Clarke, who has written a very full review of The Noughties on Amazon, in the course of which he refers to me as ‘Tom’. Which is as good an excuse as any to replay this moment of mistaken identity:

video

Rewriting the script


Not so much a Noughties story, more one for the teens and onwards: Icann’s decision to allow non-Latin web addresses will at a stroke shift the global balance of power to what we still call the developing world. The next question is: at what point will English cease to be the default global language? See Chapter Nine.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Euphemism corner


Some more words and phrases, taken from Shoot the Puppy, by Tony Thorne. Also see pp 167-174 of The Noughties.
aggressive records management: destroying incriminating documents
alumnized: dismissed, made redundant
assisted departure: see ‘alumnized’
change of reporting relationship: demotion
contingent commission: bribe
human sacrifice: see ‘assisted departure’
live ambient point-of-sale: confrontation between seller and customer
percussive maintenance: hitting a device to make it work

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Getting it wrong

Dominic Sandbrook in the Telegraph reminds us that any attempt to define a decade from the inside (whether this Noughties or the last one) may seem hilariously wrong-headed in retrospect:
A hundred years ago, our Edwardian predecessors were obsessed less by the danger of a world war than by the threat of political terrorism. And while the anarchist bomber cast a long shadow, other issues monopolised public attention in a way that now seems almost ludicrous. To the Edwardians, the great questions of the day were Home Rule for Ireland, the People’s Budget and the composition of the House of Lords. But when we look back, all we can see is the looming hulk of the First World War.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Bovver from a hover

Yesterday, I was in west London, being interviewed for a forthcoming TV programme about the Noughties. Every few minutes, we had to stop filming because of the noise caused by a police helicopter. Chapter Six (‘Are you looking at me?’) came to life as we waited.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Plane speaking

Yet another line that I wish I’d included in The Noughties. This is by Washington Post journalist Robert Kagan:
America did not change on September 11. It only became more itself.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The best film of the Noughties, so there

Empire offers its films of the Noughties, and while there’s plenty in there that might appear on my list, I think they’ve missed the best movie of the decade. I don’t blame them, because I only saw it myself yesterday. Micmacs signals the return to cinemas of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, Amélie), and it combines the moral zeal of the latter with the grubby weirdness of the former. Utterly glorious.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Was that it?

How was The Noughties for you? asks The Guardian. So tell them. But tell us as well.

Depression drama

In Chapter 10 of The Noughties I discuss the global economic meltdown that formed one bookend to the decade – the other, of course, being 9/11. Edmund Conway of the Telegraph ponders how long we’ll have to wait until the crisis is successfully presented on stage or screen:
Part of the role of literature is to express the general through the particular. This was George Eliot’s dictum – to express the drama of the human condition by describing the lives of ordinary people. And there are so many personal experiences throughout this crisis which could have helped illustrate the bigger picture: the greed of investors, the delusion of the bankers, the drama people felt when they realised the ideas they had pinned their future on had simply been wrong.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Twitstorm

Stephen Fry identifies the pitfalls of Twitter becoming the Noughties answer to the press and Parliament rolled into one:
Journalists who don’t understand what Twitter really is (the overwhelming majority) will use my name as a kind of shorthand for the service. The fact that I have been on it for a whole year (ie a decade, see second paragraph above) and have in that time accumulated a fairly large number of followers allows them lazily to go straight to my “Twitter feed” (as they insist on calling it) and either crediting me with being a kind of a Citizen Smith of the Twitting Popular Front, or blaming me for hypocritically claiming to strike blows for press freedom with one hand while trying to censor journalism with the other.

Fatal fame

Raymond Tallis in The Times, tearing into the cult of celebrity (see Chapter Four of The Noughties):
The centuries of prattle, of air time and screen time, the miles of column inches are a sickening misuse of the gift of life, of health and adequate nutrition, of freedom from oppression, of the access we now have to the world of knowledge and the arts.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Old media fail

And after the #trafigura excitement, the Twitterati flex their muscles once again, this time against luckless hack Jan Moir. What I find intriguing is the suggestion in the last paragraph of her hastily concocted apology that she was the victim of “a heavily orchestrated internet campaign”. Yet another journalist who doesn’t understand the massive shift in media power that’s occurred in the Noughties. No single entity was orchestrating it. There was no conspiracy. It was hundreds of ordinary people who took objection to the snide, prurient tone of her article; and, more importantly, who had the means to communicate that objection.

2009 is surely the Year of Twitter.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Instant nostalgia

Tomorrow: The Guardian reviews the highs and lows of the Noughties.

$0

One of the most though- and argument-provoking books of the Noughties has been Chris Anderson’s Free, in which he argues that giving stuff (in particular intellectual property) away is the future of business. Libby Purves of The Times begs to differ:
Content is not cost free. Writing is work. Musicianship involves cost and labour, art is not innately free, nor the infrastructure of news reporting. Until food, clothes, housing and transport are doled out free, content-makers need to be paid. The theory that advertising revenues will cover that, in any medium, is tosh.
That said, those nice people at Amazon seem to be edging over to Anderson’s side of the bed. Amazon Vine is offering the chance to get a free copy of The Noughties: go here for details.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Making it up as you go along

Not quite a list of the best books of the Noughties, but a snapshot of the decade in fiction: Borders promotes the highlights. I’d plump for Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, and Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World. What about you?

(See Chapter Four for more about the books of the past 10 years.)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Quids in (or out)

The economic shift that has led to great swathes of the media spending the Noughties in a sort of panicky inertia: online advertising spend in the UK finally outstrips TV.

#trafigura

In Chapter 5 of The Noughties, I discuss the extent to which blogs, Twitter and other phenomena complemented old media during the past decade and in many cases left it behind in the dust. The Mumbai attacks of 2008, and this year the Iranian upheavals and the G20 clashes in London are examples of this.

The efforts of bloggers and Tweeters to stand up against the oil company Trafigura (which was attempting to prevent the Guardian newspaper from reporting that an MP had asked a question in Parliament about illegal dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast) may not have been so dramatic, but with any luck they’ll have reminded a few corporate interests that the rules have changed for good.

Full story here.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Projecting the decade

OK, it’s not just music. Films of the Noughties are being considered at the Counting Down The Zeroes blog (although they seem a wee bit stuck at 2001 - a pretty significant year in cinematic terms, of course). And I loved Mulholland Dr. as well. But would it have been my film of the decade? Persepolis? The Wrestler? What’s yours?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Farewell

More deaths that occurred too late to be included in The Noughties:
Felix Bowness, actor
Sadie Corré, actor
Marek Edelman, survivor of the Warsaw ghetto
Michael English, artist, musician
Stephen Gately, singer
Gladys ‘Killem’ Gillem, wrestler
Bobby Graham, musician
Barry Letts, TV producer
Irving Penn, photographer
Mercedes Sosa, singer
Harry Alan Towers, film producer
Lucy Vodden, in the Sky, with Diamonds

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Pop goes the Noughties

Yet more chin-stroking about the best tunes of the Noughties, this time from PopJustice. Are music fans suffering from a more virulent strain of decaditis (see page ix) than those who love books, films and so on? Or have I just missed the other lists?

(And was ‘Groovejet’ released less than 10 years ago? Crikey.)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

I am, I said

The quintessential Noughties art project, with its connotations of permanent surveillance and fleeting celebrity, has to be Antony Gormley’s One & Other, in which he encouraged members of the public to occupy the empty plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. As it comes to its end, critic Jonathan Jones is unimpressed:
If One & Other is an image of British democratic life in our time, it is a pessimistic one. It is a portrait of a society in which people will try anything to get their voices heard, even stand on a plinth, but where no one can hear what they’re saying.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Premature adjudication

I wish I’d been able to include the news of President Obama’s Nobel Prize in The Noughties. On the other hand, I’m still not quite sure what to say about it. Even the normally loquacious and articulate president seems to be a little befuddled.

...unquote

A friend just described The Noughties as “academically conversational”. Then he admitted he’d only read the introduction. I quite like it, though. What phrase would you choose to sum up the book or the decade?

A view to a kill

Chapter Four of The Noughties deals with the extent to which the definition of ‘reality’ became utterly confused during the decade. The story that a Brazilian TV presenter and politician stands accused of ordering murders to boost ratings of his crime show is extreme even by the standards of reality TV; unless of course, the accusation is just another stunt. Wallace Souza has disappeared, and is apparently on the run in the forests around Manaus, a scenario that has the potential to be a real ratings winner...

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Brain gain

Further proof (see Chapter Nine of The Noughties) of the inexorable rise of Asia. The latest international university rankings show that, although American and British institutions still dominate, the Asian complement increases: the universities of Tokyo and Hong Kong are at 22 and 24; US representation in the top 100 falls from 42 universities to 36. The phrase “snapping at the heels” appears, as it seems to do in any discussion of Asia’s status in the world.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Who’s afraid of microblogging?

Twitter is one of the big technology stories of the Noughties, and part of its success has been down to its celebrity adopters, such as Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher. But now the news that Elizabeth Taylor has announced her imminent heart surgery in 140 characters or fewer adds a special kind of stardust to the microblogging site.

Here’s looking at you

Chapter Six of The Noughties deals with the surveillance culture that pervaded the decade, usually justified with the homily “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.” The weirdest development was the extent to which the distinction between private and public space became confused; and people seemed delighted to offer themselves up for intimate scrutiny in the name of fortune and fame.

Now, entertainment and money meet invasion of privacy once again in the form of Internet Eyes, a game of sorts, that streams live CCTV footage to the home computers of players. Spot a crime being committed, and win £1,000. Michael Laurie of Crimestoppers is unimpressed: “While the motive may be sound, the concept of Internet Eyes seems to ask more questions than it answers,” he says.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Wot, no James Blunt?

More Noughties music: Pitchfork’s best albums of the decade. Inevitably noisier, younger, slightly less uniformly Caucasian than the Uncut version, although there’s still plenty of crossover (White Stripes, Arcade Fire, etc). Despite all the postmodern fragmentation, is there still such a thing as a critical canon?

Here’s the Top 10, for comparison:
  1. Radiohead, Kid A
  2. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  3. Daft Punk, Discovery
  4. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  5. Jay-Z, The Blueprint
  6. Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica
  7. The Strokes, Is This It
  8. Sigur Rós, Ágaetis Byrun
  9. Panda Bear, Person Pitch
  10. The Avalanches, Since I Left You

Monday, 5 October 2009

The things people say

Review of The Noughties by Chris Fox at his La Terrasse blog, alongside titles by Lipmann Kessell and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
In fine contemporary fashion with not just a double but a triple title, this is a zip through the last ten years for anyone who was there but somehow felt that they missed it, like a Guardian Weekly for an entire decade. Taking us neatly from 9/11 to the credit crunch, by way of the War on Terror, climate change, US TV drama and social networking, The Noughties glides swan-like through something that feels a lot more coherent than the decade itself feels / felt. It is useful to have events prioritised and summarised, but the fragmentation of the media which is a theme of the book make this process itself seem a little old fashioned. Not that it should be old fashioned, necessarily. The conclusion talks about the shift in culture over the twentieth century, when popular culture took over from high culture, and describes where the democratising influence of the internet has taken this. And not just the internet. De-centralisation seems to touch everything: war is de-centralised by being waged upon a noun (what causes more terror than war, exactly?); news is de-centralised by being taken away from professional journalists; wealth is de-centralised by the shift in the global economy towards Asia (and de-stabilised by becoming an abstraction of an abstraction); music is de-centralised in one sense by being taken away from the music industry, and in another by its increasing disconnection from fame; even truth is outsourced to something identified here as ‘truthiness’, which is ‘the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than those known to be true’ (p. 160). It is right that we do this, it is right that we do that. Some of this de-centralisation is bad, but by no means all. Either way, it is here to stay. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Also a couple of late-breaking Amazon reviews.


Sunday, 4 October 2009

Millionaire and more

The Noughties was the decade in which the humble TV game show became a source of riches for the lucky and/or brilliant few. Weaver’s Week begins its review of the decade.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Yesterday’s news

There’s no doubt that the new media developments of the Noughties have presented a serious challenge to the dominance – and in many cases, the survival – of old-school newspapers, TV and so on. But at the same time, the fresh-faced upstarts, blogs, Twitter and so on, often seem to yearn from the patina of respectability that the BBC and the New York Times still possess, even if fewer people are watching/reading them.

For example, Twitter Tim.es, which takes the content from your Twitter account and makes it look like a newspaper. It’s as if Henry Ford had launched the Model T, and offered a free horse with each car.

Also on the Noughties/Twitter interface, here’s Noughtiesclock, counting down to the end of the decade; by which point, will we have decided what the next one’s going to be called? I’m still pitching for ‘The Teens’. You?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

William’s windmill

Chapter 3 (‘Is it me or is it getting hot in here?’) of The Noughties turned out to be a pretty gloomy overview of the state of the environment in the decade; I wish I’d known about William Kamkwamba, who built a windmill from junk to generate electricity for his village in Malawi. William, who left school at 14, kept up his scientific education with the help of a local library. He’s now 22, and has just published a book about his project; here’s his blog.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Like iTunes never happened

More Noughties music stuff. Uncut magazine offers its 150 albums of the decade, without really reflecting on the fact that the Noughties saw ‘The Album’ as a product becoming increasingly less important. As I discuss in Chapter Eight, the most significant music story of the period has not been any one particular release, but the changing means of distribution, most of which parcel up music as discrete tracks. Even if you buy an album these days, how often to you listen to it from beginning to end, in the order the artist intended? The question is not whether the Uncut people have made the right choice, but whether the whole idea of a list of best albums is relevant any more.

Anyway, here’s Uncut’s Top 10:
  1. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
  2. Bob Dylan, Love And Theft
  3. Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
  4. Brian Wilson, Smile
  5. The Strokes, Is This It
  6. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
  7. The Arcade Fire, Funeral
  8. Bob Dylan, Modern Times
  9. Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker
  10. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

Monday, 28 September 2009

History today

The Noughties is already history, or at least archive material. BBC Radio 4’s The Archive Hour features Will Self on JG Ballard, whose dystopian imaginings influenced our perceptions of the 21st century, and whose novel The Drowned World (1962) was very prescient in its depiction of melting ice caps (see Chapter Three); and then, on Saturday, Stephen Fry will be re-examining the Millennium Bug (see the Introduction).

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Leaders of the pack

As The Noughties comes to a close, there are lists all over the place. The New Statesman has identified its 50 people who matter today. Here’s the Top 10, and a big pat on the back if you can honestly say you’ve heard of all of them:
  1. The Obamas
  2. The Murdochs
  3. Marwan Barghouti
  4. Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  5. General Stanley McChrystal
  6. Malalai Joya
  7. Vladimir Putin
  8. Osama Bin Laden
  9. Nouriel Roubini
  10. Xi Jinping
Who's on your list?

Friday, 25 September 2009

Twits

Experts predict that the penultimate catastrophe will occur at approximately 7:15 p.m. Thursday night, when the social networking tool Twitter will be used to communicate a series of ideas so banal they will instantaneously negate the three centuries of the Renaissance.
The Onion, as ever, grasps the Noughties more surely than 97% of the ‘real’ news media. But has Twitter (and texting, instant messaging, reality TV and all the cultural villains of our age) really made us more stupid? Or just differently clever?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Every one's a winner, we're making the fame

As the Noughties comes to an end, the lists, charts and retrospective best-ofs begin to appear. Neil McCormick (with whom I discussed the decade on Radio 5Live a few weeks ago), offers his list of the 100 songs that defined the Noughties. Interestingly, everything in my Top 5 of the decade (p. 123) appears in Neil’s list but (as Eric Morecambe might have put it) not necessarily in the same order.

Neil’s Top 10:

10. Outkast, ‘Hey Ya’ (2003)

9. Kylie Minogue, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ (2001)

8. The White Stripes, ‘Seven Nation Army' (2003)

7. Johnny Cash, ‘Hurt’ (2002)

6. Leona Lewis, ‘Bleeding Love’ (2008)

5. M.I.A., ‘Paper Planes’ (2008)

4. Coldplay, ‘Yellow’ (2000)

3. Beyonce, ‘Crazy In Love’ (2003)

2. Arctic Monkeys, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ (2005)

1. Amy Winehouse, ‘Rehab’ (2006)

What would yours be?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dan Brown: beyond good and evil?

In Chapter Four of The Noughties, I discussed the biggest (if not necessarily the best) books of the decade, and the surrounding phenomena: Oprah; the Kindle; chick lit; misery memoirs; JK Rowling; and of course Dan Brown.

Sadly, although we knew Brown’s sequel to The Da Vinci Code was in the pipeline, it was embargoed until the middle of this month. The subject matter of The Lost Symbol is a little less provocative than that of his previous volume – Freemasonry rather than Catholicism – which has enabled critics to focus their energies on another controversial facet of Brown’s success: his writing skills. How can such as bad writer sell so many copies? Is he really a bad writer, or is just not a ‘literary’ writer? Do such distinctions matter? In a decade of e-mail, Twitter and texting, how many people know or care? Here are a few contributions to the debate, from the Daily Telegraph (London) and the Globe and Mail (Toronto). Philip Pullman hates it; John Grisham is more sympathetic. At the Daily Beast, Michael Baigent (who unsucessfully sued Brown for plagiarism) is dismissive; Brennig Jones, meanwhile, castigates those who castigate Brown, but doesn’t actually say he’s any good.

In fact, nobody does; the best his fans can come up with is “I like it”, which isn’t quite the same. Is one of the best-selling authors of the Noughties literally indefensible? And what does that say about our age?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Endings

A few recent deaths that occurred too late for us to include in the ‘Endings’ chapter of The Noughties (see page 175):

Cory Aquino, politician
Norman Borlaug, agronomist
Jim Carroll, writer, musician
Chanel, world's oldest dog
Keith Floyd, TV chef
Henry Gibson, actor
Teddy Goldsmith, environmentalist
Ellie Greenwich, songwriter
John Hughes, film director
Edward Kennedy, politician
Troy Kennedy Martin, screenwriter
Jack Kramer, tennis player, entrepreneur
Les Paul, musician, inventor
Willy Ronis, photographer
Sam, koala
Naomi Sims, model
Darren Sutherland, boxer
Patrick Swayze, actor
Mary Travers, singer


Welcome

This is a blog for the new book, The Noughties 2000-2009, a decade that changed the world, written by Tim Footman and published by Crimson Books in September, 2009. We’ll be posting late-breaking news stories relating to the events covered in the book, and hope that readers will be pitching in with their thoughts as well.

The Noughties can be found at all good bookshops, and online at amazon.co.uk.