Welcome, friends, to our newest, shiniest decade in years. And, might I say, good riddance to the old one, the rotten turnip that it was.
The decade in which being clever was a bigger faux pas than turning up at a Jewish wedding decked out in full Nazi regalia. The decade in which people BRAGGED, yes, BRAGGED about how stupid they were – and, what’s even worse, made a skip load of money doing it. The decade in which it was deemed sensible to believe in anything as long as one other nutter on the internet agreed with you. At the first point in human history when all the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the ages are available to everyone, everywhere at the touch of a button – a great leap forward in a world where knowledge is supposed to be power – we find ourselves mired in crap from the stone age about mystical vibrations, ghosts and magic. You might find this current trend towards conspiracy theories and woo! slightly incongruous, but there it is… baffling and utterly, utterly frustrating. It makes me want to puke.
Was it the worst decade ever? Nah, nowhere near as dark as the 1910s or the 1940s, but yeah it was pretty bad. It started with a damp fart as the poor old Queen lit a torch with ‘British Gas’ emblazoned all over it and it went downhill from there. From September 11th to the Boxing Day Tsunami to the Credit Crunch, the last ten years have been several shades of awful. Russell Brand, Pete Doherty, Amy Whitehouse (amongst others) did their level best to make me want to vomit up my own legs in disgust.
Big Brother proved that all you needed to do to make a fortune was to have no discernible talent and the X-Factor showed us just how little discernible talent many people have. The decade that gave us Heat magazine, ‘showbiz’ news shoehorning itself into real current affairs programming and a manic obsession with celebrity bordering on chasing them through the park wearing night-vision goggles. The decade that allowed a bumpkin like George W. Bush run the most powerful nation on Earth (and run it into the ground!). The decade that saw our human rights curtailed because of terrorists whose M.O. is… to curtail human rights. And the decade in which we lost Douglas Adams, John Peel, Tony Wilson, Richard Harris and Arthur C. Clarke. Humph.
Musically, after a slow start (Travis and Stereophonics, urgh) we had a high in the mid-noughties with the likes of Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Futureheads, Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, We Are Scientists and Guillemots rucking up and showing the kids how to have fun. Although while it’s not illegal to tout gig tickets, the chances of your average 14-year old being able to afford to see his or her favourite band is slim to none. Thanks a lot, eBay.
Cinematically, the noughties were dreadful. Apart from a few bright shiny stars (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for one) all we had to chose from were a procession of terrible Star Wars films, painfully bad Matrix films, naff Harry Potter clones and a disgraceful number of comic-book adaptations. No Pulp Fiction, no Shawshank, no Being John Malkovich, no Fight Club… Quentin Tarantino disappointed us all with his lackluster Kill Bill movies and his utterly cack Death Proof before finishing off the decade with the meh-fest that was Inglorious Basterds. Martin Scorscese finally won an Oscar, not for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or Goodfellas, but for a mediocre adaptation of Infernal Affairs that could have been shot by Tony Scott whilst recovering from a particularly rampant hangover.
Indeed, the sheer cacophony of cack that was spewed forth by the likes of Brett ‘I’ll do it!’ Ratner, Michael ‘Boom!’ Bay and McG (his name alone makes me want to punch him) was an insult to the English-speaking world. The Coens finally fumbled the ball with Intolerable Cruelty and the desperately pointless remake of the Ladykillers (although No Country was a cracking return to form) and Harrison ‘can do no wrong’ Ford didn’t have a single quality film in ten years. And in possibly the low point in the decade, the job of adapting the first part of His Dark Materials was given to the guy who co-directed American Pie. I kid you not.
But there was a redeeming feature of the noughties (and it certainly wasn’t its moniker) – American television. Wow. Like, seriously, wow. Let me just prostrate myself on the altar of America’s golden age of the goggle box: E.R., Friends and Buffy laid the groundwork, but it was the likes of Lost, Six Feet Under, The West Wing, The Sopranos, The Wire, House, 24, Deadwood, Mad Men, Weeds, Carnivale, Heroes, Curb Your Enthusiasm, My Name Is Earl, Family Guy, Futurama, Prison Break and Battlestar Galactica that smacked the ball out of the stadium.
If you didn’t sob rivers in the closing scenes of Six Feet Under, scream at the telly as Tony Soprano blinked out of our lives, lose control of your lower jaw when the island disappeared in Lost or squirt beer out of your nose when Peter Griffin ended up sleeping with Bill Clinton you should go see a doctor – I think you might well be dead.
And yes, credit where credit is due – I personally have one thing to thank the noughties for: Ten years ago, I would have had difficulty entering the following countries: Colombia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Congo, DR Congo, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and East Timor. But although war is by no means over, many individual wars are. I can now travel though nearly every country on the planet in complete safety, although I have to admit Eritrea is giving me a bit of a headache.
I don’t think anyone is going to look back on the opening decade of the 21st century as a glorious age, from Bush stealing the presidency in Florida to our scientifically illiterate representatives stealing our futures in Copenhagen, but that is the past. Obama is now president of the US, Gordon Brown will be out on his ear come May and Big Brother has been axed. The future’s bright my friends – welcome to 2010.
After a lazy morning and a delightful lunch I wrapped up my television contract with some hilariously terrible taglines (I had real trouble saying them with a straight face) outside Cairo coach station. Mand and I said our goodbyes to Matt the cameraman and soon we were on our way to Hurghada. In typically Egyptian fashion, they handed out food on the coach (as they do on many coaches from DR Congo to El Salvador) but unlike every other coach I have ever taken, failed to inform us that we would have to pay for the food once we arrived at our destination. Ha!
It was a bit late to visit Lorna when we got to Hurghada, so we elected to check into our hotel (urgh, I hate hotels, but they sometimes have their uses), grab a bite to eat and settle down for an early night. The weird thing was that it really didn’t feel like a year since I last saw the Mandster – it felt as if I saw her last week. Last year did not fly by for me by any means, but I guess it was such a surreal experience that my brain has decided it was all a fanciful dream and twisted my temporal perception accordingly. I don’t want to have another year of this though, I better get this nonsense finished quick smart – but first I’m going to have a week off. Odyssey Two starts Sunday January 10th 2010.