2015: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

The less said about this the better probably; a year of infrequent and underwhelming posts, with only a couple of pieces that were anywhere near our past standards. (Even this post is half-baked; I’m not going to get it finished before I go out, but I want to post it tonight, so I’ll have to add the links tomorrow).

It’s not a lack of topics to write about – the Trump Presidential campaign alone should have been enough to keep me in material for months – but rather the opposite that has been the problem; the dizzying mass of immediately available information that is a constant distraction. Countless are the occasions when I’ve spotted the kernel of a promising story, only to be diverted from developing it by the next shiny thing on my timeline.

Anyway, here’s our top ten posts by views over the past twelve months, all from years gone by:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. Free Pussy Riot!
  3. On Second Life and addiction
  4. All Stars
  5. Watching the Okhrana
  6. Ferrisburg, Vermont
  7. 2010: The year in review
  8. What’s up
  9. Break On Through (To the Other Side)
  10. A Radical Game

Of the posts we did manage this year, there’s only two I would save for posterity; this one about the Battle of Waterloo, and this minor example of our signature nostalgic style.

Our global reach is much the same as last year, 92 countries in total, with perhaps a slightly greater skew towards the Americas and away from Europe. Top ten countries by visitors:

  1. United States
  2. Brazil
  3. United Kingdom
  4. France
  5. Italy
  6. Germany
  7. Canada
  8. Australia
  9. Portugal
  10. Russia

I’m not sure how to regain my enthusiasm for blogging, or indeed if such a thing is even desirable. I guess the first step would be to break my Facebook habit, which would free up time to engage with more stimulating cultural activities, with the added bonus of forcing me to get my news from a wider range of sources, and to actually think critically about stuff rather than just reading opinions I already agree with.

Politics always has potential; back in the early days of SLS we kicked off a good run by covering Obama’s path to the White House, so I might draw some inspiration from this year’s race, though I’m finding it hard to get excited about what looks to be a foregone conclusion. On this side of the Atlantic the main political event of the year is likely to be the EU referendum, the debate around which will probably turn quite ugly, so there should be plenty to write about that too.

And Second Life? I did renew my premium membership back in October, which prompted me to pay a rare visit to my virtual homestead, to see if it was still there (it is), but I haven’t been back since. I can’t really imagine investing time in it like I did back in the old days, but I might manage a post or two.

So, as ever, we start the new year with the best of intentions; we’ll see how far that takes us…

2015: The Year in Review – Part 1: Culture

Here we are at the end of another year; time for a quick run through what passed for cultural engagement in my life over the last twelve months. (As ever, the full list can be found on our Tumblr.)

Music first. I’m old-fashioned enough to still think of the album as the basic unit of music, and I’ve averaged about one new one a week, mainly stuff I’ve heard on Radio 6. Female, alt-rock, and singer-songwriter seem to be the predominant themes. Here’s my favourite ten, in the order that I bought them:

No Cities To Love – Sleater-Kinney
Play Along – The Sorry Kisses
Sometimes I Sit and Think… – Courtney Barnett
Foil Deer – Speedy Ortiz
Hinterland – LoneLady
Welcome Back To Milk – Du Blonde
My Love Is Cool – Wolf Alice
After – Lady Lamb
Divers – Joanna Newsom
Short Movie – Laura Marling

If I had to choose one as the best it would probably be Short Movie, though I think that Welcome Back To Milk is the one that I’ve listened to most.

There’s been a lot of talk this year about how we’re living through some kind of Golden Age of Television, but I must admit that I practically never watch the box these days. The closest I’ve come to seeing a drama series this year is to buy the box set of the first season of Fargo, but I’ve not got round to putting it on yet. Which is a shame, because I’m sure I’d love it, like I love the rest of the Coen brothers’ oeuvre, and it’s likely that I would be entertained by all the other shows that the critics rave about too, but the fact is that I just can’t face committing myself to a lengthy series. My attention span is obviously shot; I blame the internet.

That said, I can at least concentrate for the length of a film, and I have managed to catch a few movies this year, the best of which was the Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice, exactly the sort of rambling stoner mystery that I like watching over and over. I did think about seeing the new Star Wars over the holidays, but in the end I didn’t bother. I guess I will go sometime in the new year, but I’m pretty sure it will be a disappointment.

I’ve been reading a bit more too; if there has been a common thread to my choice of books this year it’s been the subjective experience of time and memory. I finished another volume of Proust, The Guermantes Way, which I felt was the most entertaining of the series so far, though that might just be because I’m familiar now with the characters and the pace of the novel. Other highlights were The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño, and this year’s literary sensation City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. The latter was almost as good as the hype, particularly in its depiction of New York City in the mid-70s (an era in which I like to imagine I would have felt right at home), though the plot petered out towards the end.

Looking to the year ahead, I’m sure it will be more of the same; Proustian reverie and drug-imbued diversion set to a suitably stimulating soundtrack. That’s OK though; I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m reasonably comfortable with my taste in entertainment, which, all in all, I don’t think is too shabby…

Seriously though, don’t bomb Syria

As I write the debate in the House of Commons on the Syrian question is drawing to a close, and it looks like limited military action is going to be approved, though with a substantial bloc of opposition. To be fair, this outcome probably does represent the mood of the country; polls have shown a modest majority in support of bombing.

What’s interesting is that the doubters aren’t confined to usual left-leaning peaceniks; there are plenty of conservative voices questioning the wisdom of wading even further into a complex foreign conflict, with goals that are unclear and outcomes that are far from certain. Even on the left the opposition doesn’t stem entirely, or even mainly, from a pacifist outlook – pretty much everyone wants to see the back of ISIS – but rather from a conviction that the strategy proposed will only make things worse.

It would seem logical to wait until a better plan has been formulated, or at least to give less destructive options like diplomacy a bit more time to succeed. Unfortunately inaction isn’t an option our politicians feel comfortable embracing, which only reflects the anxiety prevalent in society at large; our inability to tolerate uncertainty and risk. Faced with a bad situation we want Something To Be Done, even if history tells us that it might be better to step back and let the belligerent parties sort things out themselves.

We in the West seem to think we have some special insight into conflict resolution, that we can engineer a solution that is beyond our erstwhile colonial subjects, but the evidence suggests that they would get along a lot better without our assistance, and the peace we bring is only the peace of the grave.