• December 31, 2012
  • 2012 Cultural Review

  • Last year’s cultural review proved so popular that I decided to put together another for 2012. 

    Scottish folk trio Lau were phenomenal at Kings Place in London and clear winners for my gig of the year.

    For home listening, it was the usual mix of classical, ambient and electronic. I listened to Tycho and Fennesz a lot this year, but my discovery of the year was German pianist/producer Nils Frahm.

    Caribou (as Daphni), Locsil, Four Tet and Eat Lights Become Lights all released good albums.

    On the dance front, I loved the new productions by Ockham’s Razor (Arts Depot) and Akram Khan (Sadler’s Wells).

    The British Museum’s exhibition of Spanish drawings was fantastic, alongside the spectacularly gruesome and splendidly-named ‘Death’ at the Wellcome Collection. Papier-mâché skulls are obviously the way forward. Make yours tomorrow.

    Of the major releases, I enjoyed Up in the AirTinker Tailor Soldier Spy, HugoSkyfall and The Life of Pi.

    I also watched a lot of independent documentaries, particularly enjoying Sound It Out (a moving tale of the last record shop in Teeside), Out of the Ashes (a brilliant film on the Afghanistan cricket team’s attempt to qualify for the World Cup) andEpilogue (a short student film on the future of book printing).

    My favourite site on the web this year has been the wonderful Brainpickings, curated by New York-based clever clogs Maria Popova. So good in fact, that I made a donation to keep it ad-free. I also contributed a small amount to Wikipedia’s annual fundraiser. I realised that I would miss both if they weren’t there.

    On a more nerdy note, I enjoyed reading the Harvard Business Review blogs – a great source of free information from one of the world’s best universities. Nice one Harvard.

    The Premier League’s Fantasy Football game was also fun of course, a weekly tactical battle against friends and family which breeds an unhealthy level of competition.

    I read 40 books this year, making good progress with the classics.

    • Homer’s Iliad was pure literary pleasure. The most surprising discovery was that human nature really hasn’t changed that much in almost 3000 years. It seems that we’re still gossiping and arguing about the same issues as Odysseus and pals. Reassuring or depressing?
    • Richard Burton’s epic translation of Arabian Nights was also an incredible read, but not one for the faint hearted.
    • The excellent diary collection Flaubert in Egypt was highly amusing; an outrageous first-hand account from a struggling artist roughing it in an unfamiliar land.
    • Sum by American neuroscientist David Eagleman was the most thought-provoking read of the year. I was introduced to it by watching an opera based on the book, written by composer Max Richter. The book suggests forty possible scenarios for the afterlife, including a rather disturbing account of someone turning in to a horse. Incredible stuff.
    • Digital Vertigo by Andrew Keen and Rework by software developers 37 Signals were also interesting and definitely worth a read for their contrarian views
    • The audiobook of Alan Partridge’s ‘biography’ I Partridge was predictably brilliant. I had to stop listening to it in public, given the hysterical laughter I was enjoying by Chapter 2.

    And thanks to Gabriel Garcia Marquez for the third album title.

    The new I paper, essentially a shorter version of the Independent, was a great read for 20p. As always, The Economist showcased some amazing writing and I also started a subscription to The Blizzard, an excellent new football quarterly edited by Jonathan Wilson.


    The London Olympics
    A real adventure. I have to admit that I was one of the doubters during the preparation, but it was incredible to follow the action as a resident of the host city.

    Higgs Boson discovery
    Just goes to show what can be achieved if intelligent people work together towards a common goal. Take note politicians.

    The Red Bull Skydive
    Slick marketing stunt? Massive waste of money? Maybe so, but the moment that bloke jumped was the most compelling and awe-inspiring moment of the year

    Malala Yousafzai
    Astounding bravery


    Thanks for the support over the past year. Happy New Year to all!