Happy Hogmanay!

Here’s what awaits Princes Street revellers.

Read More · 31 December 2006 · Journal

Last-Minute Bargains

Quick, before the year ends and I realise that I haven’t finished my 2007 template yet!

Read More · 31 December 2006 · Weblog

2006: The Best of the Year

This last list of best-ofs is a hybrid of the best of this site and the best of my year, which have so often overlapped that it didn’t seem worth keeping them separate. In other words, this the Blatant Self-Promotion list, a.k.a. “2006: The Best of Me” or “2006: I Am the Best”. The fact is, this has been a good year for me—a really good year—which isn’t something I’d have said of the last couple (even though they weren’t all bad). And looking back over my posts here at Speedysnail, it’s been reflected in what I’ve written and photographed. The hard part was choosing ten specific posts... so I’ve made it ten general categories instead, with links to the best posts in bold.

Read More · 31 December 2006 · · Site News

2006: The Best of the Books

Past years’ best-of lists show my reading pendulum swinging from non-fiction to fiction and back again. This year was squarely at the non-fiction end, with most of it in academic journal form, but I did manage to read a reasonable bunch of books for enjoyment—although most of those have also been non-fiction. Just yesterday, for example, I finished Joanna Blythman’s Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, a companion piece to Felicity Lawrence’s Not on the Label that reminded me just how grim the UK’s retail landscape has become. This year I’ve also caught up on Levitt & Dubner’s Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, two books that bloggers have gone on about ad nauseam, possibly because their short stand-alone chapters with no particular theme suit bloggers’ fractured attention spans. None of them made the list, though. Here’s what has.

Read More · 30 December 2006 · Books

2006: The Best of the Music

I started this list thinking that I hadn’t listened to enough new albums this year to come up with a top ten, but in the end that wasn’t the problem: the problem is that so many are from the same old bands I always go on about. Blame it on the iPod, and on the copious ripping of CDs I didn’t do as a result. Note for the benefit of lawyers that I said didn’t do, because ripping CDs is illegal in Britain, so the only legitimate way to fill up a 60-gigabyte iPod is to spend approximately £15,000 at the iTunes Music Store. Thus, I didn’t rip twenty years’ worth of CDs to the 250GB external hard-drive I didn’t buy specifically for that purpose, didn’t spend six months of the year revisiting old music I’d forgotten about, and haven’t been shuffling through it at random, album by album, on the device specifically not bought for doing so. M’lud.

Apart from not doing to any of that, here’s what I have been enjoying.

Read More · 29 December 2006 · · Music

2006: The Best of the Movies

If 2005 was a quiet year for movie reviewing here, 2006 was virtually mute. It wasn’t for a lack of viewing, though—more a lack of time to write about them. Although I only made it along to the cinema once a month for most of the year, thanks to DVDs I’ve seen six dozen movies, two dozen of which I’d call very good or great; the ones that weren’t didn’t promise much anyway. There were only a few real disappointments: everyone else seemed to adore Little Miss Sunshine and The Squid and the Whale, but I found them merely good; Syriana and Munich were effective at showing what a mess the Middle East is, but that’s hardly a surprise to anyone, and overall they weren’t as great as I’d hoped they would be; and Superman Returns wasn’t really that super.

Read More · 28 December 2006 · · Film

2006: The Best of TV

Ridiculous as it may seem for someone without a TV (yes, still) to be pronouncing on the best television he saw in 2006, the fact is that nowadays DVD boxed sets mean you never have to go without. So here’s what I enjoyed in 2006, even if most of it wasn’t first broadcast in 2006.

Read More · 27 December 2006 · · Television

2006: The Best of Online

This year I’m adding a few new departments to the usual best ofs. After six instalments I figure it’s about time to add an online category, given how large the net looms in my day-to-day life (and, because you’re reading this, I’m guessing yours as well). So, outside of work and my own contributions to the ethereal swamp, what’s occupied my attention online in 2006?

Read More · 26 December 2006 · Weblog

Give Generously

This Christmas, spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves...

Read More · 23 December 2006 · Whatever

Christmas Cheer

Christmas time is here once more,
With frosty, freshly-fallen snow,
And figgy pud, and chocolate log...

Except upon our British shore,
Where Father Christmas might not show
Because his flight’s delayed in fog.

Read More · 23 December 2006 · Site News


Jane’s Dad visited us the week before last. Not content with having dragged him all over Skye and the Outer Hebrides in 2004, we took him out to Argyll (with one eye on the weather report) and caught the two-hour ferry to Islay, legendary home to Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila and Port Ellen (and visited them all, even if we didn’t sample every one). The island itself turned out to be every bit as rugged and beautiful as its neighbours, with the threatening rain giving dramatic skies at every turn. Best of all were the flocks of Barnacle Geese wintering over from Greenland. Everywhere we went sounded like Rautavaara’s Cantus Arcticus for birds and orchestra. (One of the best pieces of classical music I’ve discovered in years—seriously. It’s The Lark Ascending with honking.)

Read More · 17 December 2006 · · Travel


It really makes no sense to post anything right now, what with having been so busy that I haven’t had time to write anything or find any interesting non-work-related links, but this can serve as a placeholder until I get around to the usual Decemberness of review round-ups and all that. What I really wanted to mention was that half of one of my favourite (and sadly defunct) Australian bands—and the songwriting and vocal half at that—has reemerged as The Girls From the Clouds, and I only found out when I heard that Candle Records was closing down. So get over there to snatch up a copy of Lalalala before it evaporates like wispy cirrus on a January day (Australian, not Scottish).

Oh, and thanks for all the thanks. More substantial stuff next week, I promise.

6 December 2006 · · Music

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