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?

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.

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

Friday, 27 November 2009


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


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.