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.”


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


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


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 d├ębacle 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.