31 December, 2007

munkey's-eye view: 2007 wrap-up

Sweet baby Jesus, how can it possibly be New Year's Eve already?! 2008 tomorrow? No. That can't be right. I will, however peek out from beneath my denial for just a moment, to wander through the garden of mindlessmunkey's popcultural highlights of the year.



Due to my friends most generously subscribing me to music porn, and due to my discovery of several great music blogs, I have been exposed to more new music this year than ever before. This makes it far too difficult to name a single
Album Of The Year. Rather, here is my top five, in a pleasantly democratic order I like to call "alphabetical":

Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible"
How do you follow up one of the greatest indie debuts of all time? How do you maintain your soul in a plastic world? Put the two questions together, and you get this modern masterpiece.

Beirut - "The Flying Club Cup"
Imagine if Morrissey and Edith Piaf had a child, and that child joined with a troupe of wandering minstrels from the Balkans, and together they serenaded passersby on the banks of the Seine. Welcome to Beirut.

Iron & Wine - "The Shepherd's Dog"
As predicted by moi, Sam Beam's first effort since his Calexico collaboration sees him evolving his sound in more and more directions, while never losing sight of his gorgeous pastoral spirit.

Okkervil River - "The Stage Names"
Epic and intimate, ironic and heartfelt, these Texans' fifth full-length is complex, intense and moving.

Radiohead - "In Rainbows"
The great warriors of outside-the-square rock music deliver a record that is their most accomplished, and most accessible, in years.

Honourable Mentions:
Björk - "Volta"
Bowerbirds - "Hymns For A Dark Horse"
Liam Finn - "
I'll Be Lightning"
Kings of Leon - "
Because Of The Times"
Ingrid Michaelson - "
Girls & Boys"
The Shins - "
Wincing The Night Away"
Sigur Rós - "
Hvarf / Heim"
Spoon - "
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"
Patrick Watson - "
Close To Paradise"
Amy Winehouse - "
Back To Black"

Now, for my annual compilation mix-tape/CD. I explained the rules governing this last year, although they have changed a little, in that tracks don't now need to be from a 2007
album to qualify (i.e. singles and online-only releases are allowed too). So here it is, mindlessmunkey's Best Of 2007:

02 - REHAB - Amy Winehouse
03 - BOY WITH A COIN - Iron & Wine
04 - THE PENALTY - Beirut
05 - 1234 - Feist
06 - KEEP THE CAR RUNNING - Arcade Fire
07 - THE GREAT ESCAPE - Patrick Watson
09 - DADDY'S GONE - Glasvegas
10 - PLUS ONES - Okkervil River
12 - DELIVERY - Babyshambles
13 - FAUST ARP - Radiohead
14 - THE TRUMPET CHILD - Over The Rhine
16 - THE WAY I AM - Ingrid Michaelson
17 - PHANTOM LIMB - The Shins
18 - RAGOO - Kings Of Leon
19 - BIG WHEEL - Tori Amos
20 - Í GÆR - Sigur Rós
21 - DARK HORSE - Bowerbirds



I am absolutely useless at reading books when they're released, so it's impossible for me to say what the best book of 2007 was. However, I read many wonderful things this year. I started on my journey through Proust's "In Search Of Lost Time", beginning (naturally) with Volume 1: The Way By Swann's. It's a tough slog but I got a lot out of it, and though it may take me years, I am determined to read all seven volumes. The conclusion of J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter saga, meanwhile, was sadly less rewarding. That is to say, it was incredibly enjoyable at the time, especially the festival of mirth my wonderful friends created around it, and I couldn't put the book down even after the festivities ended. But, in retrospect, I'm afraid the more I think about it, the more I'm irritated by thoughts of what might have been (with the whole series, not just "...Deathly Hallows"). So I've just stopped thinking about it. Disappointing.

I think I would have to say that my favourite book of this year (i.e. that I read this year) comes down to a three-way-tie between: DBC Pierre's "Vernon God Little", Tolkien's "The Children Of Húrin" and Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Virgin Suicides".

Unfortunately I was creating this list with the help of my Facebook-based Bookshelf application thingy. Unfortunately this Bookshelf thingy does not allow me to add books unless they are listed on Amazon, and this in turn means I forgot to include a very important title in my list of books...

"Scatterheart" is the the first published novel (strictly speaking) by my dear friend Lili Wilkinson, and is absolutely one of the best books I read this year.



I saw lots of great things this year, both new releases at the cinema, and catching up with missed gems on DVD.

The best movies encountered in the cinema included "Little Children" (wry and disturbing), "The Lives Of Others" (intriguing and beautiful), "Hairspray" (brilliant fun), "Snow Cake" (flawed but great) and "Control" (sad and haunting).

Meanwhile at home on my very own couch, I bamboozled my mind with "Mulholland Drive", tickled my fancy with "Stranger Than Fiction", was touched inappropriately by "Me & You & Everyone We Know", felt dirty with "The Magdalene Sisters" and gave my heartstrings a pluck with "Kramer vs. Kramer".



In this modern age of bittorrents and shows "streamed live from the US" (LOL), it's far too hard to keep track of what's actually been made / released when and where in a given year. That said there has been some truly great TV around this year.

Suffice to say, I spent brief, intense periods with "Rome", "Life On Mars" and "Shameless", while there are a few crowd favourites which have been watched pretty much constantly by munkey's eyes over the last twelve months, including "Grey's Anatomy", "Brothers & Sisters", "30 Rock", "Ugly Betty" and "The West Wing". Whatever shall we do once the effects of the writers' strike filter through, and we find ourselves all adrift, without our beloved televisual escapes? Join the real world? Talk to each other? Heaven help us!


Well, that was exhausting, wasn't it. Thank goodness I only feel compelled to do it once a year.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2007. I have to say, on the whole, mine was pretty bloody good, actually. Here's to a spectaculastic 2008.

Happy New Year!


30 December, 2007

not available in pharmacies

29 December, 2007

and the bells were ringing out...

I arrive at the Shopping Metropolis immediately after work, having already done about half my Christmas shopping, but still with several people to buy for. The first three times I walk into a shop with the intention of purchasing a gift, said gift is not available at said shop. I nearly burst into tears and go home. I persevere. Two-and-a-half hours later, after only once threatening the homicide of miscellaneous fellow-shoppers, my Christmas shopping is complete.

I shuffle into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and fresh-from-bed on what will be my last day of work for the year. The rich apricot-coloured light of sunrise spills through the front window onto the Christmas tree, making the ornaments sparkle. Outside the bathroom window, a small fragment of rainbow hangs in the sky beside the Eureka Tower.

Clutching booze cans and barbecue food in the large tin work-shed, my workmates and I fall silent in awe as the afternoon sky is split by lightning, and a torrential downpour of rain is unleashed. It is the kind of rain we haven't seen in years, if ever. It falls in waves like a descending ocean, and cascades down the sides of the glass office-building next door.

Christmas passes in a cavalcade of wonderful food and drink, the giving and receiving of gifts, and the company of much loved people. Perhaps my memory is just tainted by the terrible mood I was in last year, but I believe it's fair to say it was my most enjoyable Christmas in a long time.

I return home on Boxing Day to an empty house, Byron having set off to spend a week in Sydney. It is weird living alone again, especially after several days in almost constant, varied company. There is no motivation to cook proper meals, tidy the house, get up or go to bed at reasonable hours. I find myself spread on the couch reading books, or disinterestedly wandering the internet at ungodly hours of the morning.

Although, to my shame, I know very little of Pakistani politics, I involuntarily gasp and cover my mouth with my hand when I read of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I do not move at all for several seconds. What kind of world do we live in?

I awake with a vaguely awry feeling in my belly. Soon after, I am sitting on the toilet, clutching a bucket on my lap. This state of affairs continues for much of the morning. My body's mood for expulsion is so violent, it seems a wonder none of my internal organs become dislodged and ejected in the frenzy. I know I have been eating and drinking too much lately, but surely this punishment is a little harsh?

Today, with my guts still not entirely behaving themselves, I close all the windows and blinds against the scorching heat. I do a little work on my book, but it becomes too hot to think constructively. Instead, I have decided to lay on the couch in my dressing gown, and do something I could never do while Byron is here: watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in a single day. (My mother would be so proud!)

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.