Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year, Everybody

It is new year's eve, and time for my annual recap post. For people who have not been here in previous years, I am very deliberately going to answer the same questions I answered a last year, a two years ago, and a three years ago, even though some of them are perhaps not quite the same questions I would ask of myself now, and some are questions to which I don't really have answers. New questions will be added answered wherever they feel appropriate. I have had a year of ups and downs, I think I have to confess.

Countries I visited in 2005
United Kingdom, France (three times), Hong Kong, China, Australia, Germany, United States of America (twice), Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg. (* Methodological note on this question at the end)

Countries I visited in 2005 that I had not visited before

Greatest product I discovered while travelling to one of these countries
What is there to discover in Luxembourg? Banking? Pretty scenery? Portuguese beer for twice what I paid for it in Portugal the weekend before? I did buy a nice bottle of Alsatian Pinot Noir in Luxembourg, and I do rather like the light Pinots for that region, but the occasion when I discovered this was in Alsace earlier in the year.

Greatest product I discovered in a country I had visited before
The obvious answer is Alsatian Pinot Noir, I guess. I could also mention my weird propensity for coming back from European destinations with large pieces of cheese in my luggage here, too. And I bought what was apparently an interesting bottle of muscet in the Douro port country, but I didn't get to taste it as the bottle broke in the boot of the car as I was driving much too fast to Porto airport in order to make my flight back to London.

Total number of countries visisted in my life
36 (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, USA, Canada, UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Kenya, Tanzania, Portugal, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Thailand, Nepal, Macau, Finland, Estonia, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg).

Number of these countries that no longer exist
3 (Czechoslovakia, Macau and Hong Kong, although you can argue both that Hong Kong and Macau are still countries or that they never were).

Best theatrical production I saw this year
The only play I saw this year was a production of The Tempest at the Globe, which turned out to be a mess. I did have a meal in a restaurant immediately after it, however.

Movies I most enjoyed in 2005
Pride and Prejudive. (In my mind easily the best adaptation made of the book). Serenity.

Most over the top (and very Japanese) movie I saw this year
I can't really think of a Japanese movie that I saw this year which qualified as "over the top", which is a shame given how over the top Japanese movies often are.

Japanese animated film that I am most glad that I finally caught on DVD
Laputa: Castle in the Sky . Also, I saw Howl's Moving Castle in the cinema, but it was unfortunately a dubbed print. I bought region 3 DVDs of NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Winds, My Neighbour Totoro and Grave of the Firefies very cheaply in a Chinese DVD/VCD shop just off Canal Street in New York City, and I really must get around to watching them.

Books that I most enjoyed reading in 2005
I didn't read very many books this year, unforunately. I bought a few, but largely didn't get around to reading them. Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau was good in the sense that he interviewed all the right people, and was I think a sign that the presence of the singularity just down the road is something that is becoming clear to the mainstream, but it didn't contain much that people who have been watching this kind of thing were not aware of already. It wasn't as good as his Edge City which really was an exceptionally inciteful look into how the world is today (and which has influenced my thinking as much as any book I have ever read).

Musical acts that I would have liked to have seen, and that I could have seen in London in 2005 if I had bought tickets in time, but didn't
Sigur Ros (again). Imogen Heap. (She is playing London again in the New Year, however, and this time I have booked a ticket).

Favourite television programs of 2005
I have pretty much stopped watching television on television. I now get full season box sets of programs on DVD, or I use the wonders of Bit Torrent to watch shows that our friends in the TV networks will not provide in Britain until next year. As for as the DVDs are concerned, I finally watched Firefly, and it was almost too wonderful for words. There were clearly teasers and references to the next five seasons in the 14 episodes of season 1, and it makes me incredibly sad that I am not going to see those five seasons. I also watched Wonderfalls on DVD, which was great too. The one season we got of that seemed more complete though. Although I would have liked more of that too, I did not feel the loss as desperately as I did the loss of Firefly. (Still, there is obviously a connection between these two series. Tim Minear was one of the main figures in thr production of both. Minear is amazing: of all the fine writers of the team that Joss Whedon put together for Buffy and Angel, he is the one who is as good as Joss. I hope that one of his series gets picked up for more than one season before long. As for other TV I watched, I am still watching 24 which is fun if slight (and repetitive, to tell the truth). And I watched 24 which is good fun but complete tosh. Of the school of writers that started producing their own programs about a decade ago, JJ Abrams is the most successful. He is nowhere near as good as Joss (although he is perhaps a more visual director) but he is the one who has produced mainstream hits. Lost is fun for now, but at some point some of the mysteries as to what is going on on the island are going to have to be explained, but the explanations are going to be lame and everything is going to collapse.

Live sporting events I saw in 2005
England v Australia, first test, day five. Lord's. I managed to see just about the only day of the entire Ashes series that was not exciting. And at the end of it I was certain that Australia was going to win the Ashes. So was everybody else.

Most stunning place I visited in 2005
Crater Lake, Oregon. My drive up the Douro valley was pretty great, too. As indeed was my drive up the Tarn Gorge.

Place I visited where I felt most like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes, he spied the Pacific, and all his men looked at each other, wild with surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien
Actually, I was a bit weak on places of great importance to antiquity this year. These are often near seas and oceans, and most of the places I visited were inland. I went for a drive up the Hudson Valley, and imagined how this was once the greatest highway of the Americas, but I am not sure if this is antique enough.

Great bridges I walked over in 2005
The great bridges I visited this year were not walkable. (Note that I exclude bridges and tunnels I have visited in previous years from bridge and tunnel questions).

Great Bridges I travelled over in vehicles in 2005
The Millau Viaduct. The East Bridge. (If I were to include bridges I had visited before, I could have added a lot of others too. Visiting New York and San Francisco will do that).

Great Bridges I saw, but did not travel over in 2005
None immediately come to mind.

Great tunnels I travelled through in 2005
The Severn rail tunnel is about the best I can do.

Other places I visited in 2005 that are of interest to the hacker tourist
The computer markets of Shenzhen, China, and Chek Lap Kok airport, Hong Kong.

Places that are of interest to Jane Austen fans that I visited in 2005
The Cobb in Lyme Regis, Dorset. (And Louisa Musgrove was insane to jump off those stairs. I am amazed she lived). Jane Austen's grave in Winchester Cathedral.

Most upsetting event of the year.
The July 7 bombing of London. (Everyone was expecting it to happen at some point. It was still terrible.

Rawest emotional reaction of the year
Sadly, that is too personal for me to want to blog about it.

Moments in 2005 that most reminded me how Australian I still am
Wandering round the East End of London (where I now live) looking at little remnants of the East London culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and suddenly being aware where related little bits of Australian culture came from.

Most time consuming but rewarding activity I took up in 2005.
Cooking fancy meals for guests. (Actually this is a rediscovery of an activity from a few years ago in my life, but it is nice to have resurrected it).

Most surreal literary/travel experience in 2005.
I suppose the best I can do hear is "Reading Jane Austen's Persuasion in an Inn in Lyme Regis, while looking at the Cobb out the window and wondering if the Inn I was sitting in was the same as the one the characters were dining in in the novel. (One can seldom tell in Austen. She is non-specific about locations).

Most surreal musical/travel experience in 2005.
Listening to an MP3 of Suzanne Vega singing Tom's Diner in Tom's Diner in New York. (Note: it is very important that it was an MP3 that I was listening to). Listing to Sheila Nicholls "Fallen For You" while wandering around the Guggenheim in New York City.

Most unexpected thing that happened to me in 2005
I allowed myself to get depressed over a member of the fairer sex. I had promised myself that I never would again.

(*Methodological note: To have "visited" a country, I generally consider that I must have physically left the airport or the railway station. Merely changing planes or trains, or flying over a country or catching a train through it does not count. However, to say I "went to Germany" this year is perhaps pushing it, although I did strictly qualify. I flew to Karlsruhe-Baden Baden airport in Germany, but then got a bus directly to Strasbourg in France. (Actually come to think it I earlier in the day walked over a footbridge into Germany, had a beer, and then worked back. Actually I am talking crap. That means I qualify without any trouble.

Also, to count myself visiting a country twice, I require it to be on separate trips. If I cross the border from Spain to Portugal and then come back a couple of days later, I don't count it as two trips to Spain).

Update: When I posted this, I managed to neglect to recollect that I crossed the Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong for the first time. That's a big one to neglect, given that it is the sixth largest bridge in the world. As a slight excuse, I did previously see it in the distance in 1997, and this time I did go over it in a train in foggy weather. (Or was it smoggy weather? The weather in Hong Kong is always smoggy).

Blog Archive