The VM Awards for 2011

Ok… It’s the last day of 2011 and before I head out to perform my last clerical duties of the year, as per the tradition (ie. I did it last year…) I offer you an eclectic set of VM’s Awards of the Year… as if anyone cares…

Anyway, last year kicked off with what was to be my (and many people’s) favourite film of the year – The King’s Speech, in which Colin Firth stammered his way to a p-p-plethora of awards… Still think Helena Bonham Carter was the best thing in it however…

It took until the end of the year however for me to come across my favourite album of the year… it was a Christmas present to my eldest son from some discerning giver… What do you give a jazz trumpet playing teenager with pretensions at being a guitar playing rock god (when not studying for medicine or strutting the stage that is)? – why obviously Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues Live at the Lincoln Centre… Two genuine musical genii sharing the same stage… And as I am eventually carried out of my funeral service (some years from now I hope), I want their version of “Just a closer walk with thee” to be playing through the PA…

Which on a number of levels brings me to my favourite concert of the year… Been to a few different gigs during the year, but given that I’ve been waiting for about 35 years to see him, my favourite of the year had to be Eric Clapton in at the Odyssey in Belfast… He has the stage presence and rapport with an audience of my Uncle Walter (and he’s no longer with us), but Clapton’s playing is absolutely peerless, and that is now one more thing ticked on my bucket list…

All of the above were easy to elevate above their peers this year. Other awards were harder to tease apart… Especially plays… Was deeply disappointed with Jacobi’s Lear earlier in the year at the Opera House, and Branagh/Brydon’s “Painkiller” at the newly refurbed Lyric was funny, but ultimately disposable… So I suppose it should ultimately be between two other Lyric shows, both involving old friends (though that probably wouldn’t sway me), “Faith Healer” or “The Crucible”… Because of my own involvement in the former many years ago I still can’t get any proper objective perspective on it… and it is a hard play to jump up and down about at the best of times as it is mentally and emotionally draining… On the other hand, the opening show in the new Lyric… “The Crucible” directed by Conall Morrison. The reviews were mixed, particularly at the beginning of it’s run, and even when we saw it at the end of it’s run some performances were a little patchy, with a lot of unnecessary stomping and shouting… But it had an emotional energy sadly lacking in the aforementioned Lear… with the use of local accents enabling the obvious resonances with contemporary Irish society to hit home more easily. Also the set seemed as if it had been hewn from the same wood that clads the inside of the main auditorium of the new Lyric. However, ultimately it is the setting of a theatrical experience that makes my favourite play of the year another Arthur Miller play, “Incident at Vichy”. A free performance in the Belfast synagogue by a semi-professional cast as part of the Jews Schmooze Arts Festival, it was a truly challenging, powerful production, and points up the fact that while it is good to have appealing (but expensive) professional theatre spaces, like the Lyric, the Opera House and the new OMAC, some of the most provocative theatre happens in unexpected places… and we need more of that…

Book-wise its been a bit of a dry year… with little to cheer about. My theological reading has been relatively low-brow this year, and, as such my favourite has probably been “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning… It’s not without its faults, but it spoke to where I was at the time I read it and I will be recommending it to people in similar positions in the years to come.

Most of my fictional reading has also been, as usual, complete, unashamed trash… Read “Any Human Heart” at the beginning of the year and “The Shipping News” at the end of it and both left me feeling jaded… Also read Stig Larsson’s second instalment of the “Millennium” trilogy – which I thought was better than the first one, but I didn’t feel strong enough to go straight to the third one… Most of my other reading has been historical fiction, including another by the uncrowned king of the genre, Bernard Cornwell, this time taking a slightly different, more thought-provoking approach in his War of Independence novel “The Fort”. But my favourite was an Amazon recommendation – “The Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield, which was exciting, lyrical and mentally stimulating all at the same time… But by most will be dismissed as a “sword and sandals” pulp fiction novel… sadly.

Which brings me to my penultimate award for this year… for my favourite piece of technology… In a year where I’ve had to replace a lot of bits of technology around our house due to wear and tear, with the usual spiral of comparing prices, technical specs and consumer reviews… my favourite tech purchase wasn’t the PS3 the kids got for Christmas (I haven’t got near that yet), nor my new HTC Desire S smartphone (largely because I’m still not totally happy with the diary function – any suggestions guys?), but my Amazon Kindle… I bought it early this year as I expected to be doing a lot of airtravel, which didn’t actually materialise, and thought that loading books on a single e-reader would be a lot more convenient than taking my customary pile of paperbacks… Now many bibliophiles are very snooty about ebooks… Anne Robinson apparently said last week that "Owning a Kindle is like wearing polyester knickers....." I wonder how she knows. For me, however, its not a case of either/or… I love the feel and smell of books… But the Kindle is just so convenient… And actually, I’ve ended up using it for purposes I hadn’t originally planned, including storing all my documents for meetings, sermons and even radio talks like this… The Kindle I bought was one of the cheaper ones and it has more than paid for itself in saved ink costs through not printing everything… So all in all it was quite a successful purchase, and I’ve sung its praises to so many people I almost feel like asking Amazon for commission, although I do notice that the version I bought, the renamed Kindle Keyboard Wifi is not currently available... So perhaps I'll rein back on my recommendations.

And finally, I come to my single award for Blog of the year – I had multifarious blogging categories last year, but I (like many others it seems) have been paying less attention to my and others blogs this year, so I am making only one recommendation on that front – the VM Blog of 2011 award goes to WhyNotSmile… Not just because she got stroppy when she got an “honourable mention” last year, but because even though her output has dropped (only one post in December - come on), it hasn’t dropped as much as most and it is still guaranteed to encourage what it says in the title… So I hope this virtual award prompts her to start posting again...

So that’s my round-up of 2011… Not a profound way to the end the year… But hey ho… What do you expect from me? At least I didn’t finish the year with some sort of miserablist rant… Let’s leave that to next year...

God bless you all in 2012...

Shalom

Comments

Sharon Gilmore said…
YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!! I got an award! Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!

There's another post coming later today, and I'm hoping for a few more in the next week or so. I have ideas, but I have not time.
Understand that... found about 20 half finished draft posts the other day that I just didn't have the time or inclination to finish... Hope you have more of both yourself in the new year...
jayber crow said…
I always enjoy reading other people's end-of-year lists. As always I'm hoping that doing mine will provide a spur to get back into regular blogging. Maybe this year.

I have to confess I can't share the love for The King's Speech. I found it quite dull and actually dozed off a couple of times.

Interested in your thoughts on the Kindle. As a book snob I've been surprised to find I'm strongly considering getting one. My hesitation is around the fact that if I really expect to love a book, I know I'm going to want a paper copy. So do you just buy e-books when you have lower expectation? I'm interested in the other uses you've found for it too...

Happy new year!
Jayber Crow - my views re Books and ebooks are similar to your own, hence most of the downloads I've made are either trash novels or free/cheap classics some of which I already have as books, but who wants to haul On the Origin of Species in book form to the doctor's surgery. Two great benefits however are the note-making/clipping facility on the Kindle Keyboard that I have made great use of, particularly on a couple of theological books, and the ability to upload docs including sermons. You simply email them to your kindle.com address and so long as you download it via WiFi Amazon reformats to docs for free. Magic.
I do hope you reboard the blogging boat soon as I always enjoy your reflections... Tho you are wrong about the King's Speech.

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