As a native English speaker in a French speaking town these last few days of the year are always a timely reminder of the quite extraordinary power of language to get beneath the skin of what we think and into the heart of what we feel. And long may it be so. And long may it continue to furnish a modest living at least for those of us inclined to think and to write about how that makes us feel. And for those of us unable to really do much else.
So since it’s too late to wish you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or all the very best for The Festive Season or even to hope you had a good Winterval (the last being sadly not a joke but a best forgotten ‘faith neutral rebranding’ of the season by Birmingham City Council) I’ll just settle for a heartfelt Bon Fin D’Annee.
There’s something that I like a lot about wishing a happy end to the year that’s been rather than a happy start to the one that’s coming. Something small and modest. Something reflective and contented. Something particularly suited I think to these short days and long nights in the warm company of family and friends. So here’s to all we’ve had and all we’ve shared it with. In gratitude. In the spirit of inclusion and creation. Without condition.
I’m especially grateful this year for having been given the opportunity to edit Game Changers. The Evolution of Advertising. For the patient faith of my co editor, Senta Slingerland at Cannes Lions, and our publisher, Julius Weidemann at Taschen. And for the kind reviews. I’m happy to have been able to collaborate with Robin Ibens at http://www.degeschorenaap.be on our ‘Scentaround’ triptych films and for the part that they were able to play in communicating IFRA’s just and powerful advocacy. And I’m happy now to be working again with http://www.katarinawinslow.com for the very nice people at Amnesty International and End FGM.
I’m glad I was able to spend time in San Francisco with Bob and to have not just seen (and written on) the restoration of the Rolling Stones to their rightful place in popular culture but also to have been lucky enough to witness the return of the missing link between The Beatles and The Ramones: the woefully neglected Flaming Groovies at The Elbo Room and to hear the fabulous Laura Marling at the beautiful Chapel.
In the US the Stones restoration was a close run thing but having trimmed and tightened the show much along the recommended lines (there will be no charge, Mick, I’m just happy to help) Glastonbury and Hyde Park, on the evidence of the excellent ‘Sweet Summer Sun’ documentary at least, were triumphant. There being no rest for the wicked they’re set for Abu Dhabi and China next but then they never were especially shy about following the money. Back home there were also memorable shows from Bruce Springsteen at Werchter, Elvis Costello in Ghent and Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Cat Power, Lucinda Williams, Eels and Suede among others too numerous to mention in Brussels. I know I really must get out less.
Declan and The Roots also provided the years stand out record with ‘Wise Up Ghost’. Proving along the way that in most fields of creative endeavour the spark of youth and the wisdom of experience have nothing to fear from each other and a lot to gain in learning to grow up and play nicely together. Prefab Sprout’s sublime ‘Crimson Red’ got beneath the skin too. ‘The Old Magician’ being as touching a meditation on ageing as you’ll find this side of ‘The Great Beauty’.
And we had a better year at the movies than many of late. From Blue Jasmine and Inside Llewyn Davis to Rush, Captain Phillips and Gravity via Star Trek Into Darkness and The Great Gatsby, Hollywood seemed to find it’s mojo again by doing what it does best when the chips are down. Finding just the right language to connect our heads to our hearts all the while bringing a smile to our faces and our bottoms to the edge of our seats. Little wonder 2013 chalked up record box office. It’s not that hard is it?
Thanks to Bob I got to start on George Saunders with ‘The Tenth Of December’. And thanks to India I got to finish Nassim NIcholas Taleb’s ‘Anti Fragile’. In their different ways both of them completely and utterly blew my mind in that way that sometimes only ink on paper can. ‘Stoner’ I must confess to having bought but not yet opened.
Les Diables Rouge qualified for Rio without really having to break sweat and the World Cup, or FIFA 2014 as we must now say, will certainly be a better party for it. Local boy Stromae lifted off into global stardom by impressively outselling even Daft Punk in France and at last appearing on Anglo Saxon radar in The New York Times and The Observer. I even bumped into him buying jumpers in Cos. Belgium will be big next year. And Elton John. Don’t ask me why just remember where you read it first.
Online my children, at least, turned from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat. Facebook now having finally been revealed to them as little more than the slave era business model of share cropping only somewhat ironically without the sharing. I followed them as far as the first while upping the volume a tad on Twitter and Linkedin and refining and updating http://www.peterrussell.be with the help of firstname.lastname@example.org. And I finally got to grips with the strangely addictive Google Analytics. So if you’re the person in Ottawa who spent twenty-seven minutes on peterrussell.be in October do please drop me a mail. I’d really love to know why.
SEO died a quiet unmourned death so now we just need to find a rather more value added term for ‘content’ which has always sounded, and often looked, a little too much like garbage to my ears and eyes. And while we’re at it could Linkedin try and manage to look and feel a bit less like homework please? And tweak the algorithms while you’re at it so I don’t keep getting the same turgid drivel about ‘the dos and don’ts of optimal email marketing’. In exactly what sense is this ‘personalised content’ when I personally have no interest in it whatsoever? Anyway you know who you are.
All the same and despite the fact that this year I managed to reconnect with an old school friend who I had not seen for forty years, not online as you might think but by bumping into him in my local fish shop, there really is no going back now.
So Bon Fin D’Annee to you and yours. And one last final thank you.
Yes. Thank you Edward Snowden from the bottom of my heart. For finally proving what those of us who have been up and paying attention have suspected for a while now. That many of our governments and most of our googles are in the same business (the old family business as it happens) is now plain for all to see. I just can’t help finding it a bit odd that we all seem to be as righteously angry about the former as we are cooly indifferent to the latter.
Or could it just be that we’re finished with one and we’re not quite ready for the next?
Happy New Year.