Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Top Crab #9

This blog is now officially a 9 year old, and once again it is time to look back, reminisce, point at a trend or two, and wonder aloud how long I can keep this futile exercise going and what for? Escapism?
There are no new overarching trends to talk about from the past year. Which means that by now the Internet has firmly established itself as the all conquering source of contents, leaving the brick and mortars shop with the sole duty of providing hardware. And even on that single front they seem mortar (shell) shocked.

Best Book:
I haven't reviewed as many books as I would have liked this past year. In fact, I only got to review a minority of the books I did manage to read. Luckily, I did review the book I consider the most important I have read this year, Data and Goliath by security expert Bruce Schneier.
Data and Goliath does not derive its importance solely from its thorough review of how every act of ours is nowadays recorded and surveyed. It's the implications that count. If I was to put on the hat of a futurian, I would argue the main threats to the continued incremental evolution of human culture/civilisation comes from this surveillance. When every move of ours is documents for prosperity, we will react accordingly – in the same manner as every one of us behaves at work or at school according to the KPIs we are measured on. In this particular case, mass surveillance will create a society of mindless consumers doing the bidding of those in power, because the option to dissent against those in power will not exist anymore.
And who are those with the power? Oh, they are easy to identify. They run the corporations that collect our data, whether you call them Google, Facebook or Axiom. Then there are the shadowy figures that try to keep themselves unknown and operate at the fringes of the law. I am talking about the likes of your NSA or GCHQ (and they are yours – they are funded by tax payer’s money). These organisations have developed their own facilities for sucking our information dry, usually by piggybacking on your Google/Apple/Rovio. Regardless, they offer minimal recourse to the law, operating gangs of lawyers in charge of twisting the law’s intents, and running under minimal supervision.
In case you’re asking who benefits from all this monitoring, the answer is simple. First, evidence clearly indicates the surveillance has nothing to do with the excuse world leaders from Obama to Cameron throw at us, terrorism; no act of terrorism was prevented using bulk data collection and they know it. No, the surveillance is simple there to keep things the way they are. In other words, to prevent the majority from uprising against the ruling classes. It is the latest incarnation of class warfare, designed to keep us at bay.
Yes, you can mock me as a conspiracy theorist. However, do not complain when TPP or its likes comes to be and you finally feel the pain. You will submit to Big Brother, because the powers that be have a detailed dossier on you. 

Best Movie:
While movies have been demoted into second grade entertainment these past few years, there have been some nice ones around. Examples include the sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy and the war movie from Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner.
However, looking back at the year that passed there was only one movie that kept dominating my recollections. Only one movie I repeatedly quoted from. It was not science fiction; it was a live portrayal of history in the making. I’m talking, it goes without saying, about Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour, the movie documenting the first encounter between Glenn Greenwald, Poitras and one Edward Snowden at a Hong Kong hotel as well as the initial impact that encounter has had.
That impact is obvious. Edward Snowden has become a household name, for a start. More importantly, without Snowden and his sacrifice there would have been no Data and Goliath book to win an award in the previous paragraph. Without Snowden, our perceptions of the way our society runs would have continued along the same delusions the people in power wanted us to maintain.
Most of all, Citizenfour proves that one person CAN still make a difference.

Best on TV:
There is some exceptional stuff made for TV out there. Fargo is the easiest example I can think of.
However, in keeping with this year’s political theme, the nod has to go in favour of a Danish three season long series that concluded more than a year ago and features some of the best, strongest characters around. Female characters, too!
I am talking about Borgen, a series depicting the rise of an unlikely progressive politician into the role of the Danish PM, her survival there despite of all the plotting, family issues and events going around, and then her rebuilding of her career later. Each episode is a treasure full of things to think about, from comparisons with the way our politics on this side of the world works to contemplation of the role of the media plays.
Most of all, though, I liked Borgen because it made me feel as if the characters of Birgitte and Katrine are part of my own life. My friends, if you will.

Best Music:
I have a lot of respect for contemporary musicians. They keep me happy and invigorated.
But the band that kept me running more than anything else this year, the band that probably drove about half my music consumptin this year, was a band that ceased operating more than three decades ago. And the album I listened to the most was an album rereleased this year in a remastered version in order to commemorate its 40th anniversary.
Meet Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, the best album [re]released this year. By far.

This blog would like to use this opportunity to thank citizen James Patrick Page for taking the time to go over Led Zep’s recordings and, one by one, rerelease them in their best form ever.

Best Video Game:
This past year of gaming started in disappointment. The new gen consoles arrived, but with all due respect they have arrived without the games. Even Dragon Age, the game I looked forward to the most by virtue of it being made by the same people who made my all time favourite Mass Effect, turned out to be a boring flop. Not that it’s a bad game, it’s just that the combat isn’t too exciting and the return on investment on time spent was minimal.
Eventually I did find a console favourite, even if it was a reincarnation of a game released for the previous generation. Regardless, Grand Theft Auto V is a great game; an epic. To give you an idea of just how grand this game is, I had spent more than two hours chasing one guy escaping me in a truck across deserts, roads, lakes, beaches and a Los Angeles like city and I thoroughly enjoyed it. No other game makes me feel like it’s a world of its own as GTA V.
Not to mention the wisdom of this game. I recall a teenage character telling “my” older father character that I should have known my daughter/his sister is inside the porn industry from reading her LifeInvader posts. I mean, what better way is there to describe Facebook? As with all good cases of irony, it can become hard to tell the irony from the serious. Which is probably why Grand Theft Auto sees itself condemned by plenty of people taking the moral ground instead of getting the joke.
On the more child friendly corner, this year has seen Super Smash Bros. arrive on the Wii U. Just as it did with Mario Kart 8 before, Nintendo had produced a game that can see me playing endlessly without ever getting bored (although the extensive bottom mashing can get tiring on the thumbs very quickly). Sure, Nintendo has no idea what to do with its concept of Amiibos, but with all the flexibility and modes this game provides everyone should be able to find their niche.
When all is said and done, my life at the moment does not allow me to settle and play for hours and hours. This is where portable gaming comes into being with the iPad turning, in effect, into my primary game console. There are tons of good games available for the iPad, too many to mention here; I would settle now with naming the one game that went a cut above all the rest. The one game that had me dreaming at night and daydreaming during the day. The one game that had me truly passionate. My best game for the year.
World of Tanks Blitz takes the venerable PC game and packs it up in an iPad package that makes it feel as if the game had always been there, designed with a tablet in mind. Sure, the controls can be painful, but other than that this MMO packs tons of depth with its maps, tank models and strategies. My age definitely shows; I often get splattered before I even know what’s going on, and let’s just say I’m on negative balance when it comes to my personal tanks accounting. But when this slow to react guy gets the pincer movement right, when the right move turns numerical inferiority into a surprise victory, one can easily feel like a little Napoleon.
Most of all, World of Tanks Blitz wins my day by virtue of offering intensive battles in short 3-4 minutes doses. This way I can live my life around it; it’s sort of the exact opposite of Dragon Age.

Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence:
Borgen might have won its award already, but the truth is that it is not on its own. Scandinavia seems to be able to produce plenty of gold in the shape of quality TV contents, certainly enough to show that Hollywood may have the budget but creativity still prevails.
Notable members of this high quality family include the various episode of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (with its sequels here and here). Then there is Bron/Broen (aka The Bridge), the wonderful story about a Danish cop working with a Swedish policewoman on a joint case. The series has inspired British as well as American spinoffs, but more importantly – season 3 is coming up shortly, giving yours truly a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year!

1 comment:

Uri said...

I thought you were supposed to pick one of the books/movies/etc that you've reviewed.

I'm afraid I'll have to disqualify your TV pick on those grounds.