And the VM Award Goes to... (continued)


OK... so, for the entertainment of all three of you sad people who are reading blogs or are trawling through facebook during the Christmas break, here are the VM Awards for things out there in the real world... Starting with some of the stuff that appears in the sidebar of the blog...

Best Read of the Year: This may have changed since Christmas, depending on whether I get any of the books on my wishlist from Santa, but I've vowed not to go near the computer for a week (a sort of pre-New Year resolution), so I've written this before the big day... Whilst it wasn't written or published this year, I was a bit slow in reading Stieg Larsson's "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" but until recently it would have been my favourite read of the year, despite it's unremitting grimness... However, it was toppled at the last minute by C.J. Sansom's "Heartstone", which was published this year, the latest in his Shardlake series which I reviewed a couple of days ago; a sort of Tudor Patricia Cornwell with fleas and lice... If you haven't read them yet, get hold of the first one "Dissolution" and write off the next month as you devour all 5 books...

Best Theological Read of the Year: My theological reading has been relatively low brow this year, and my two favourites probably won't win me any plaudits among my evangelical colleagues. One was Shane Claiborne's "Irresistible Revolution", his autobiographical reflection on Christian community and the political dynamic of the gospel. But my favourite, and given my current state of mind, one that I probably need to go back and read again, is Brian McLaren's "Finding our Way Again" offering his post-evangelical take on the ancient spiritual disciplines.
Best Non-Theological, Non-Fiction Read of the Year: The title of this award is almost longer than the book to which I would award this. In a year where I've read "Schindler's List/Ark", "Churchill's Wizards" and, more recently, "More Than Just a Game", all of which were excellent, the best of the bunch is Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture." While the others were informative, moving and in places inspiring, this book is potentially life-changing.

Best Album 0f the Year: Been buying more CDs this year (and yes I am one of those dinosaurs who still likes a physical object in my hand to prove that I've actually purchased a piece of music - another reason why I still haven't gone down the kindle/e-reader route for books... even trash novels). However, whilst most of the CDs I've bought have been released this year, they have generally been by artists who might be (at best) termed "veterans" including Robert Plant and AC/DC... But the best, for my money, was Tom Jones' Praise and Blame. Yes it may be a cynical exercise by the old rocker's promoters to try and tap into another musical niche, but he carried it off with such verve and passion that I'll overlook that...

Best Film of the Year: This is another area (along with fiction, theology and music) that my tastes are appallingly low-brow. No sub-titled Kazakhstani documentaries for me... Anything I go to see is usually fairly mainstream (although I did watch both the "Hurt Locker" and "4 Lions" on DVD this year... and both, in different ways, packed a powerful emotional punch), and until recently, because of the stage my children are at, generally PG or at most 12A. Whilst Toy Story 3 (3D) would be up there (and I would have gone to see that with or without children), in a year where most things I saw were in 3D (with the exception of Avatar... but lets not go there)... my two favourite films were definitely, indeed definitively, 2D... First was Social Networking or The Social Network (I'm still not sure what it's called) Aaron Sorkin's take on the origins of the Facebook phenomenon. Whilst the writing was not as blisteringly hot as some of his other pieces, the storytelling technique and depth of characterisation was superb, indeed, to over-egg my point, more three-dimensional than anything else this year. But for all that, my favourite film was "Made in Dagenham", the (somewhat glamourised) tale of the fight for equal grading/pay for women in Ford's Dagenham factory in the late 1960s. It's straight out of the mould that made "Full Monty" and "Calendar Girls" though with less flesh on view, and it is a little predictable (not just because it is an historic event) but the ensemble acting from a largely unknown cast is superb. It wasn't critically acclaimed, but I liked it and this is my blog... so there...

Best Theatrical Performance: Haven't been to the theatre as much as I would like this year... However, in a year where I've seen a West-End production of Chicago, which was OK, but without the stand-out, star quality performances from the leads that I would have hoped for, my favourite show was a toss up between David Johnston's hilarious adaptation of "The Miser" or Marie Jones' flawed but powerful "Rock Doves" in the Waterfront Studio... Probably plump for the latter, partly because it contrasted well with the heavily hyped but deeply disappointing version of "Over the Bridge" I saw earlier in the year, and also for the reasons I blogged on it earlier. This was largely because a group from my son's school had gone to it and left at the interval due to the language and subject matter. It probably wasn't a suitable show for 13 year olds... although the sad thing is that for many 13 year olds in our society it isn't a show, but an everyday reality... I doubt that it will be back on stage any time soon... It's not going to draw the crowds that a "Chicago" or even "Stones in her Pockets" would... but it was well worth seeing...

Best Concert: If I haven't been to much in the way of theatre this year, I was horrified when I realised that any award for "Best Concert" would have been between the Mika's opening concert of his current tour, the Jools Holland extravaganza at the Waterfront, a small-scale charity gig by Brian Houston and Ken Haddock, or my eldest son's school Spring Concert in the Ulster Hall... Of course it had to be the latter... OK Owain, you can stop twisting my arm now! He's a big lad...
and finally
Best Beer of the Year: Contrary to what some people might think I am not a big drinker, but, like my literary/theological hero (and local lad made good) C.S. Lewis, I enjoy the odd ale now and again. This year had the pleasure of sampling some really lovely ones while in Brittany emanating from the Lancelot Brewery... But my big find of the year was a dark Mexican Ale called Negra Modelo... Enough flavour to go with the spiciest Mexican fare, but light enough to drink when its hot outside... Superb... You need never drink flavourless water like Sol ever again...


Anyway, those are my Awards for the year gone by... Hope you have enjoyed the year through the distorting lens that is VM, and that the New Year will bring you all sorts of blessings...


For me, my New Year's resolution is that I have to get out more and stop sitting in front of a computer screen...

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