Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year, Everybody

I am very deliberately going to answer the same questions I answered a year ago, and a year before that, even though some of them are perhaps not quite the same questions I would ask of myself twelve months later, and some are questions to which I don't really have answers. New questions will be answered wherever they feel appropriate. Just browsing through, it is interesting how many things mentioned in the questions that I didn't get around to doing this year. Despite that, it feels like it was an extraordinarily event filled year.

Countries I visited in 2004
United Kingdom, Spain (twice), Australia, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark. (* Methodological note on this question at the end)

Countries I visited in 2004 that I had not visited before
Denmark and Sweden

Greatest product I discovered while travelling to one of these countries
How can it be anything other than the Princess Mary doll?


(Oops. Couldn't think of a serious answer)

Greatest product I discovered in a country I had visited before
I think the curiously Italian milky coffee they call galao in Portugal just about qualifies.

Total number of countries visisted in my life
35 (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, USA, Canada, UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Kenya, Tanzania, Portugal, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Thailand, Nepal, Macau, Finland, Estonia, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark).

Number of these countries that no longer exist
3 (Czechoslovakia, Macau and Hong Kong, although you can argue both that Hong Kong and Macau are still countries or that they never were).

Best theatrical production I saw this year
I didn't see a single theatre production on stage this year. (For the second year in a row. Pathetic. Must do better. Actually, there are two plays that I have plans to see already this year, so I will do better).

Movies I most enjoyed in 2004
The Barbarian Invasions, The Incredibles, Before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (It has been an oddly good year for movies).

Most over the top (and very Japanese) movie I saw this year
The Grudge is about the best I can do, and that was made in English for the American market, although set in Japan and made by a Japanese director and crew. I need to see more original J-Horror though, and possibly even K-Horror.

Japanese animated film that I am most glad that I finally caught on DVD
Kiki's Delivery Service

Books that I most enjoyed reading in 2004
The Confusion by Neal Stephenson (hard to get into, but worth it when I did), Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling (which I read a decade before, but which now seems astonishingly prescient).

Musical acts that I would have liked to have seen, and that I could have seen in London in 2002 if I had bought tickets in time, but didn't
Travis. (I really now should see more live music, given that I now have plenty of money and I live in London, which is a great city for it).

Favourite television program of 2004
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is gone, and the world is a much worse place for its absense. I haven't watched much television this year, other than a couple of seasons of "24" on DVD, and although that was fun it somehow isn't good enough to belong here. I should have got the DVDs of Firefly amd watched that, at some point, but I haven't. And I shall get the Wonderfalls DVDs when they come out, and I am told that J.J. Abrams' Lost is great, although I haven't seem any of it yet.

Live sporting events I saw in 2004
England v West Indies, second test, day five. Lord's. Chelsea v Manchester United. Stamford Bridge. Real Club Deportivo La Coruna v Shelbourne. Riazor Sadium, la Coruna. Chelsea v Aston Villa, Stamford Bridge.

Most stunning place I visited in 2004
Has to be Porto, although I did a wonderful walk along the Asturian coast near Gijon that definitely sticks in the memory.

Place I visited where I felt most like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes, he spied the Pacific, and all his men looked at each other, wild with surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien
The places I visited this year were a little too tame and cut-lunchy for this. I suppose looking out at the Bay of Biscay, and imagining fishing vessels arriving there full of cod in the late 15th century from places kept deeply secret was one thing. And Santiago de Compostela had a certain historial cross cultural frisson about it I suppose.

Great bridges I walked over in 2004
Again it wasn't a great year for bridges. The best I managed in terms of walking was the various bridges across the Douro in Porto, the most notable of which is the Ponte D. Luís I. I wasn't that far from a really great Bridge - The East Bridge in Denmark connecting Zealand - but I didn't quite get there. This is another of those "Must do better" situations. (As I said last year, I really need to see the Iron Bridge in Shropshire, too).

Great Bridges I travelled over in vehicles in 2004
The bridge portion of the Oresund Fixed link between Copenhagen and Malmo is about the best I can do.

Great Bridges I saw, but did not travel over in 2004
None immediately come to mind.

Great tunnels I travelled through in 2004
The tunnel portion of the Oresund Fixed Link between Copenhagen and Malmo.

Other places I visited in 2004 that are of interest to the hacker tourist
I wasn't so much of a hacker tourist this year. Reading the Stephenson novels did encourage me to walk around London looking for remnants of the scientific revolution that was going on here during the late 17th century. The Greenwich observatory is of course a hacker tourist destination par excellence, although the visit this year was not my first.

Places that are of interest to Jane Austen fans that I visited in 2004
I still haven't managed to get to Lyme Regis where Louisa Musgrove fell over in Persuasion.

Most upsetting event of the year.
One has to say the terrible earthquake and tsunami of the last fortnight.

Rawest emotional reaction of the year
My response to the Madrid bombings in March.

Moments in 2004 that most reminded me how Australian I still am
Sitting in a pub beside the Thames in Wapping after just having an (ultimately successful) job interview with Citigroup at Canary Wharf. The pub was full of Australians who worked for a Thames boat tour company on the Thames. We drank beer. We were Aussies. My ancestors lived probably a few hundred yards away before coming to Australia. So, likely, did theirs.

Most time consuming but rewarding activity I took up in 2004.
I suspect I have to say "I got a job" here.

Most surreal literary/travel experience in 2004.
I didn't quite get the literary/travel experiences right this year. I did read Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises when I went to Spain, but I couldn't get the synchronisation right. When I was in San Sebastian, the characters were in Paris. When I was in Pamplona, the characters were in San Sebastian. When I was in Gijon, the characters were in Pamplona. When I was in La Coruna, they had gone to Madrid.

Most unexpected thing that happened to me in 2004
I think I became respectable again. Not sure this is good.

(*Methodological note: To have "visited" a country, I generally consider that I must have physically left the airport. Merely changing planes does not count. However, to say I "went to Sweden" this year is perhaps pushing it, although I did strictly qualify. I flew to Malmo airport in Sweden, but then got a bus directly to Copenhagen in Denmark. At the end I got the bus directly back to Malmo airport. So I didn't really see much of Sweden except a motorway. (The stamps in my passport are Swedish, though). So I will count it.

Also, to count myself visiting a country twice, I require it to be on separate trips. If I cross the border from Spain to Portugal and then come back a couple of days later, I don't count it as two trips to Spain. This rule has changed since last year).

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