I had previously thought of doing some "best of 2007" lists, but frankly, "worst of 2007" lists seem far more appropriate.
3. After 2.5 years, Kate left me. Words cannot describe how crushing a blow that was. I won't even try. Even now the hurt is too much.
2. My Grandpa being diagnosed with lymphoma and the subsequent lack of success with chemotherapy.
1. My mother nearly dying the very day I moved out of my place in Brisbane. She's much better at the moment, though not in full health and may never be. At least we laugh about what happened now.
Worst Sporting Events
3. Black Magic, the yacht of Team New Zealand, coming agonisingly close to defeating Alinghi in the America's Cup, only to lose a crucial race by one measly second.
2. The Cricket World Cup, most notably Bob Woolmer's death, the farcical conclusion of the grand final in almost total darkness, and the failure of the New Zealand Black Caps to pass the semi-final stage again. We remain the most underperforming of the top eight cricket countries in World Cup history.
1. Now, if I were more objective with sport, #1 and #2 would swap places. But the defeat of the All Blacks in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup was truly the most personally devastating sporting event that I have ever witnessed. If only our coach had not over-confidently picked the team based on protecting certain players for the semi-final. If only the referee had not allowed an illegal French try. If only, if only! We're still the best rugby side on the planet, the best sporting side on the planet bar none, but it hurts that we again haven't won the Cup. And to go out with our worst World Cup performance ever? To not even reach the semis? Humiliating.
Well, this is more fairly "Most Disappointing Albums", as I am sure there are plenty that are worse littering top forty charts. But these albums actually had potential to be good.
3. Marillion's Somewhere Else: Now, it's hardly a secret that Marillion in the Hogarth era is a shadow of the once great band from the Fish era, but even Hogarth Marillion can do much better than this pseudo-prog pop drivel. The song titles say it all: See It Like A Baby, Most Toys, and Thank You Whoever You Are. What nonsense!
2. Pain of Salvation's Scarsick: After the horribleness of Be, Pain of Salvation could only improve. Clearly, they improved as little as humanly possible. Disco Queen is the most cheesy, pathetic song I have ever heard a prog band attempt. I don't know how anybody could still want to follow this band after such a trainwreck.
1. Dream Theater's Systematic Chaos: So Dream Theater have been on a severe quality decline. So only half the songs on Octavarium are good. So what? Systematic Chaos still had a lot of potential and Dream Theater remain an immensely talented band. But this reeks of a midlife crisis, of a desperate grasp for fleeting inspiration and an urge to be "METAAAALLLL". I would not be sad if I never heard any of these songs again. This album is truly worthless. The CD is an expensive coaster that spits out offensively bad noise when you put it in a stereo.
A dishonourable mention should go to Radiohead's In Rainbows. I don't like Radiohead in the first place and think their only decent songs are Electioneering and Idioteque, but this album was seriously hyped, especially after Radiohead got credited for being original with their decidedly unoriginal "pay what you want/take it for free" approach to releasing their album online. I had no expectations going into this, but everybody likes to hype Radiohead so I thought I would see what the fuss was all about. I literally burst out laughing at multiple points due to how bad the album is. I think I laughed for a good minute through 15 Step. How this annoying, talentless, dull band has any fans, I will never comprehend. To claim they are innovators is downright dishonest.
I don't watch movies. I only saw three 2007 releases, of which The Simpsons Movie was the best, Beowulf was in the middle, and the Golden Compass was the worst but nonetheless more enjoyable than I expected (I only saw it as my friends wanted to see it and I didn't care what movie we saw; I just wanted to catch up with them). However, when visiting a friend on the Gold Coast recently, I had to suffer a terrible movie from 2006, and as I did not see it until this year, it is my worst movie of 2007. The movie in question is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It is basically a collection of spectacular but implausible car racing scenes strung together by a stupid plot full of lame and unsuccessful attempts at lowest common denominator humour. It also has far too many annoying - and I sincerely hope exaggerated - US Southern accents.
Worst Political Blunders
I'm limiting myself to Australian and US politics here. The former because I live here and am naturally exposed to it in great detail and the latter because it's unavoidable.
3. The whole Dr Mohamed Haneef saga. Upon leaving England in 2006 for a job at the Gold Coast Hospital, the guy gave his mobile phone SIM card to his cousin to use rather than tossing it away - as anyone would do. His cousin then got caught up in the bombing of Glasgow airport. Haneef in turn is accused of being a terrorist! When the courts released him on bail due to the belief he did not pose a threat to Australian society, the Howard government pissed on the innocent-until-proven-guilty standard of our legal system and revoked his visa on "character grounds". This seemed to be an attempt to manufacture another MV Tampa or children overboard scandal, but they couldn't sell that bullshit a third time. The apparently considerable incompetence of the Australian Federal Police did nobody any favours either.
2. The Lindsay pamphlet scandal, in which a number of Liberal Party members - including the husbands of the outgoing sitting Liberal member for the Lindsay electorate and the new Liberal candidate - attempted to distribute bogus flyers from a non-existent radical Islamic organisation praising the Labour Party. If anything proved the Liberal Party's utter desperation and willingness to resort to the dirtiest of political tricks, this was it.
1. The US government taking moves to categorise the Republican Guards branch of Iran's army as a terrorist organisation. Yes, that's the largest division of the Iranian army, the armed forces of a sovereign state like those the world over. This broadens the definition of 'terrorism' to a point of uselessness; any military viewed unfavourably by a particular country can be condemned as a terrorist organisation and it turns 'terrorist' from something specific and analytically useful to little more than a pejorative term. It's a political showpiece that achieves nothing of positive worth while laying waste to the meaning and nuance of an already contested term. "Linguistic terrorism" may be too harsh a way of describing such action, but it sure has more merit than the move itself! Not to mention that describing it as "linguistic terrorism" demonstrates just how broadly and uselessly 'terrorism' can be used if this idiotic categorisation is employed.
Everything's not all doom and gloom; most of it is. Here's my attempt to look on the bright side.
3. Seeing the reunited Crowded House in concert. Now there's one band that I thought would never come back from the dead. From their scintillating performance here in Melbourne, you'd never guess they'd been inactive for 12 years.
2. Catching up with my old friends and Johnno, many for the first time in 2-3 years. It's funny how some things have changed considerably, but a lot of things are barely different at all. It's also really nice to see some people starting to achieve their potential and go places.
1. Kate. She's still my best friend, and spending time with my best friend is always memorable, especially after not seeing each other for so long.
Best Sporting Events
Well, the All Blacks won the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations again. That rocked.
3. Solar Powered People's self-titled: Now this is how you make monumental rock music. It is just drenched in delay. Some compare it to shoegazer, but I don't think it fits there. This is the grandeur of rock music bellowing from the mountaintops.
2. Porcupine Tree's Fear Of A Blank Planet: It really does seem like Steven Wilson can do no wrong. Both this album and its associated EP, Nil Recurring, are stunning pieces of work. Anesthetize is a perfect summary of everything Porcupine Tree is about in 17.5 minutes.
1. Alcest's Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde: Intensely beautiful and stunningly original. Neige - who does everything - constructs a shoegaze-influenced structure atop a foundation informed by his black metal heritage. Imagine the intensity of black metal channelled into something positive and indescribably beautiful.
Best Musical Discoveries
This year was one of considerable musical discovery. I would like to recognise that by acknowledging some of the incredible releases from previous years that I did not hear until this year.
3. The Sea, Like Lead and Belegost's split album: Both bands play a heavier brand of post-rock, though not enough to strike post-metal territory. The compositions avoid the genre's pitfalls and cliches; they are original, engaging, and very well composed. Belegost's 22:29 long Nightwalker/Deergod stands out as a fantastic achievement; it explores numerous atmospheres before reaching a thunderous and sustained conclusion.
2. Terraces' A Place Like This / Pictorial 7" single: As far as music goes, this is bordering on the obscurest of the obscure. This release by a Christchurch band in the early 1980s makes even my usual obscure stuff look widely known. It sounds like what would happen if The Cure and U2 circa 1980 got together at the bottom of the world to write two songs together and recruited a Kiwi singer. Unfortunately, Terraces never released anything else and this is all we have to savour.
1. Wolves In The Throne Room's Diadem Of 12 Stars: The most immense black metal ever? Possibly. This album once and for all convinced me that I do indeed have a future with black metal. Some stuff within the genre is too harsh, some stuff is too poorly produced and inaccessible, some stuff is just plain stupid due to various scene attitudes, but this release is mindblowingly incredible. The wall of noise! The icy atmosphere! The buried screams and eerie female vocals! What a superb effort.
Rather than being drawn from 2007 releases, this is drawn from what I have read this year, excluding those books I have yet to finish (I have updated the list to reflect my reading of the last few days).
3. Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities: I found this to be a really riveting story. I do, however, think Charles Darnay is a complete and utter fool.
2. Malise Ruthven's Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning: I really did not think that a book I merely picked up for a bit of essay research would prove to be so engaging that I would devour it in the course of a few tram rides over a couple of days. Great analysis of what makes religious fundamentalists tick.
1. Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime And Punishment: Dostoevsky deserves his reputation, and then some. His books are so rich in content, detail, thought, and insight. I could have put House of the Dead here, as it is profoundly moving and horrifying, but Crime And Punishment is its superior. It is a stunning tale, told with the utmost of skill.
Best Political Event
Well, there's one that easily outshines all the others: Kevin Rudd's fantastic victory in the 2007 Australian federal election. 11 years of Howard's pathetically incompetent government are over. Australia's political future really does look brighter.
Happy New Year, folks. I hope you all have a good one. Enjoy your 2008.