TTYF! SICK REVIEW OF THE YEAR / 2001
The year 2001 will be forever remembered as the year when a world power was shocked to its very core by the unthinkable. A nation that regarded itself not only as a supreme world power but more than anything untouchable on its home territory had to endure a hated enemy inflicting a blow so massive that the nation may never fully recover. And because this is the modern world, the nations humiliation took place on television too, with the whole world watching.
Still, it was a foolish pundit who underestimated the victims will to succeed, its track record of imposing its will on its opponents and, albeit by virtue of the play-offs, Germany still managed to qualify for this years World Cup.
England had just 10 days to bask and Scotland to stew in the glory of Englands convincing but somewhat fortuitous victory over Germany before the events of September 11 sent all but a few Moslem fundamentalists into a deep depression. Even Cat Stevens cancelled plans to re-release a remix of his classic 1970 album Tea For The Taliban.
Just under 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attack. There have been bigger disasters in terms of the death toll. Eight thousand people were killed in 1984 in the immediate aftermath of the Bhopal disaster and over 500,000 more were injured, but they dont count because they were only Indians, the event did not take place live on TV and the company responsible for the atrocity was an American one, Union Carbide.
Will the fuss over the attacks on the World Trade Center fade away as has concern over Chernobyl since 1991? (Ukraine's Health Ministry estimates that 3.5 million people, over a third of them children, have suffered illness as a result of the contamination, and the incidence of some cancers is 10 times the national average.) I suppose that all depends on how the war against the Taliban goes. If it becomes a long running saga on a par with Vietnam then we wont hear the last of it for another 30 years, which will put it several hundred years behind Ireland in the will we ever get this bloody sorted? stakes.
Certainly thanks to the video footage the image will stay in the memory for a long time, probably more so than a far more significant event such as the dismantling of the Berlin wall. Weve already reached the stage, however, when celebrities can no longer milk easy approval from their ability to bypass the security restrictions and visit Ground zero first-hand to "raise the morale" of the New York Fire Department. Unless the terrorists can strike a follow-up blow we may even one day see famous American tough-guy actors like Arnie & Bruce summon up the courage to go on aeroplanes again.
The Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh, could not be considered a lucky person except that his execution took place before the September 11th attack; had he been sentenced after it the US public probably would have demanded an even more barbaric form of execution, perhaps a visit from OJ Simpson or death by suffocation under a mountain of fat ugly trailer park trash culled from the Jerry Springer show. As Senator Gary "Pants-down" Hart said, "Lets give the terrorists a fair trial and then hang them."
Its very easy to criticise the Americans, so easy even Americans do it. We snooty Europeans like to characterise American armed forces as being more of a danger to their allies whilst we fondly portray Republican presidents as warmongering imbeciles. Certainly George Dubyas alarming ignorance of events outside of the US prior to his election gave good cause to worry about how he would conduct a military campaign such as the one against Al-Quaeda but touch wood, World War III has not broken out yet, unless the skirmish between India and Pakistan is just a dress rehearsal. Suffice to say if it does the Americans will save our arses again and well spend the next 50 years moaning about it. If you are downcast at America being the worlds supreme power, just thank your lucky stars that Israel is not the worlds major power; thered be no world of which to be the major power as they seem to base their foreign policy on the Old Testament.
Amidst all the fuss of war and terrorist attacks it was easy to forget that back in Britain there was a general election in 2001. The result was inaccurately described as a "landslide". Last time I checked, a landslide involves a shifting of a large amount of stuff from one location to another. In this election the nearest thing to a landslide was the Liberal Democrats advance to 52 seats, their highest total since mutton-chop sideburns were in fashion (no, not the seventies, you buffoon). The Tories actually gained one seat overall, and managed to nick one seat in Scotland, but it was not enough to save William Hague, who did the decent thing and fell on his sword.
Well, actually, the decent thing to have done would have been to have pushed Michael Howard on to his sword - literally. Still, on the bright side it is kind of reassuring to have insufferably smug bastards like Howard around for the next 20 years knowing his party will probably not get back into power because a slicker bunch of Conservatives appear to have the keys to Number 10 locked up for the foreseeable future.
Hague completed the usual transformation of previous Tory hate figures such as Parkinson, Norris and Portillo (but not Howard, who patently spent far too long wearing Saurons ring in his youth) and became human, even likeable. His resignation speech in the Commons was one of the few occasions, outside of Dennis Skinner and his Bumper Book of Heckles, when TV coverage of Parliament proved interesting.
Having got shot of a bald europhobic weirdo as their leader the Conservative party took an absolute age to replace him with .... a bald europhobic weirdo. Ian Duncan-Smith has achieved the impossible by having an even lower profile since becoming leader than he had before .
The election campaign was, by common consent, about as interesting as a 1980's re-run of Arsenal versus Jack Charltons Middlesbrough. Had it not been for John "Two jabs" Prescott responding as any fat northern working class bloke would after being pelted by an egg ("Back in twar my father would have worked for a week down tpit to afford a real egg,") then the only abiding memory of the campaign would have been Tony Blair getting hand-bagged by some 15 minutes of fame woman outside a hospital.
Thank God Birks had some decent chilli dips and tortilla chips on hand on election night to occupy me because it really was the dullest Election Night I can recall. Screaming Lord Sutch was sadly missed.
Of course, Peter Mandelson did his best to liven up proceedings with his "I am a fighter, not a quitter" speech; a rant which more or less confirmed that the only real source of opposition for the Labour party these days comes from within its own ranks. After such a display of wild-eyed nuttiness it is barely conceivable that Mandelson will ever be recalled to the Cabinet but it would be entertaining if he were, if only to see how he could fuck up his career for a third time. For a bloke who was supposed to be the Prince of Darkness and the master of spin he has always been a terrible TV performer and he should stay in the background, preferably behind a brick wall.
On a personal note I was chuffed to see Portillos conqueror, Stephen Twigg, increase his majority in Enfield North, if only because the Conservative candidate opposing him (John Flack) was a twat from my year at school. Theres already one objectionable Tory in Parliament who used to be in my year at school (Andrew Lansley) but at least he is intelligent, although given that he was the mastermind behind Hagues electoral strategy perhaps he is not so bright after all.
I remain convinced that the Tories main aim in this election was to avoid annihilation. They knew they could not win so instead of attempting to do so and moving to the centre they instead shored up their core vote and moved further to the right. By the time of the 2009 election Britain will probably have joined the euro, the British way of life will have been barely altered and the Conservatives will have to come up with a whole new nightmare scenario with which to attempt to frighten the voters.
John Flack, failed Conservative parliamentary candidate for Enfield North, is not the only repellent thing to have come out of Essex. Theres me and Kev, for a start. Jamie Oliver for, hopefully, a finish. Early in the year, however, the nations most reviled county sparked off the outbreak of foot and mouth disease which brought much of Britains tourism industry to a standstill. In order to protect the sale of 20,000 carcasses of beef to Europe the (now disbanded) Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Fuck-Ups decided to authorise the mass slaughter of around six million animals, most of whom were completely unaffected by the disease.
Much of the countryside was declared out of bounds, a decision I am happy to see never repealed, except for tourists - and only then because it makes the towns less crowded and makes it possible to get on the London Underground in the summer.
The handling of the outbreak became this years Millennium Dome botch job. Some pundits thought it might even cost Blair the election, but short of him being filmed buggering a heffer (the corpse of Eric Heffer, possibly) it is difficult to conceive of a scenario whereby Labour could have lost the election.
This years Millennium Dome/Foot & Mouth botch-up could be Railtrack, a company beset by "institutional paralysis", according to Lord Cullens report on the Paddington rail disaster. Like the Millennium Dome, the "de-privatisation" started out as an idea with potential populist appeal, but the handling of the change of ownership is not proving popular with the media or the skilled personnel of Railtrack who are, reportedly, leaving the company in droves.
I, personally, could care less about the bleating complaints of the denizens of the stock market who as ever seem to expect the government to waive the rules of capitalism whenever it involves the investment banks losing money? Who can forget the complaints of the investment banks who underwrote the BP share issue before Black Monday back in 1987? The whole point of underwriting share issues is that you receive a handsome fee for taking on the risk that not all of the shares might be bought at the offer price. When the stock market suffered an historic slump and the investment banks were facing massive losses on the BP share issue the government stepped in and put a floor on the BP share price. Now with Railtrack the fat cats in the City were trying it on again.
"Its not fair," they whined, "we thought youd carry on giving hand-outs to Railtrack for ages so they could promptly pass the money on to shareholders. If wed known the company could go bust we would have invested in other companies such as Enron ... oops."
I have some sympathy for the rank and file staff who have lost out on their share options and who might have been relying on them to see them through retirement. I would
support any move by the government to compensate these people but Ill be blowed if the fat cats in the City should be given a penny. Dont they read their own small print on their literature?
Sometimes it is the small changes which end up having the greatest effect. David Blunketts first steps down the road to decriminalising cannabis could lead to a massive source of revenue for future governments and might encourage the troubled young residents of Oldham, Bradford and Burnley to chill out a bit. New Labour seems to have gone cold on the idea of associating itself with icons of Cool Britannia, otherwise Ali G would surely have been appointed as the new Drugs Csar.
Early in the year it emerged that Princess Margaret is paralysed and practically blind. I took no notice as I thought the newscaster said she was "paralytic and blind drunk", which would not be news at all. If she lives as long as her mother shell spend almost 3 decades in near darkness - something she could have achieved earlier in her life by moving somewhere such as Blackburn.
My own theory about the Queen Mothers longevity is that she is such a bedrock of the monarchys rapidly diminishing support that they cant afford for her to die. As a result they have used a succession of look-alikes over the last 30 years to maintain the myth of her enduring vitality. I cant think why the Soviet Union did not think of this earlier with Stalin.
Jill Dando - no longer with us
In the USA they electrocuted the Oklahoma Bomber; in Britain we imprisoned Barry George for the murder of Jill Dando. This was a premature imprisonment, in my view, as there was so much more work for him to do - Cilla Black, Vanessa Feltz, Carol Smiley, Anthea Turner, Carol Vorderman, Anneka Rice, Gloria Hunneford and Graham bloody Norton.
Carol Vorderman - always bloody with us
One imprisonment that was long overdue was that of Jeffrey Archer. He was in danger of surpassing Robert Maxwell in the Getting Away With It For An Unfeasibly Long Time stakes. As every wag observed, the downside to his imprisonment is that he could emerge from prison with a new book. Seeing as I seriously doubt whether he writes his own books anyway I dont think this is a worry and besides no one forces you to read Jeffrey Archer novels. The real downside is that he is not sharing the prison cell with Graham Bloody Norton.
Archer really is a shameless shit, but even I was surprised at him persuading his mother to pop her clogs so he could go for the sympathy vote when the sentencing came around. Which brings us on to the Celebrity Snuff List.
Jack Lemmon (the Tom Hanks of his generation, only much, much better)
Caroll OConnor (Archie Bunker)
Michael Williams (Mr. Judi Dench)
Nyree Dawn Porter (actress, best known for her part in the Forsyte Saga)
Anthony Quinn (not a great actor but still ful of spunk at 70)
Charlotte Coleman (actress, Four Weddings And A Funeral)
Nigel Hawthorne (star of Madness of King George and victim of one of the most pointless "outings" ever perpetrated on a gay actor)
Stanley Kramer (director of Guess Whos Coming To Dinner and others)
William Hanna (of Hanna-Barbera cartoon fame, creators of some of the worst low-rent cartoons ever seen on TV)
Thuy Trang (the yellow Power Ranger. Died in a car crash; not wearing a seat belt)
Dale Evans (Mrs. Roy Rogers)
Jack Haley Jr. (film producer, once married to Liza Minelli. Was son of Jack Haley, the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz)
George Harrison (all things must pass, even an immortal member of the Beatles)
Perry Como (so laid back he practically sang in his sleep)
Sir Harry Secombe (one of those voices that always had me reaching for the off switch, but a marvelously jolly man)
Isaac Stern (violinist and occasional chat show guest)
Chet Atkins (was once told by a man who stopped to listen to him play, "Youre good, but youre no Chet Atkins")
Glenn Hughes (Village Person, the biker)
Joey Ramone (more influential than he was given credit for)
John Phillips (driving force behind the Mamas & The Papas)
John Lee Hooker (Boom, boom, out went the lights)
Larry Adler (raconteur and mouth organist)
Aaliyah (rising hip-hop star who died in a plane crash)
Gordon R. Dickson (a favourite SF novelist of Kevin Warnes)
Poul Anderson (another SF maestro)
Ken Kesey (author of One Flew
Auberon Waugh (genial old foey)
Robert Ludlum (am I the only person in the world not to have read one of his novels?)
Douglas Adams (may have only had two real moments of grand inspiration but thats two more than most achieve)
Miscellaneous famous people
Hank Ketcham (creator of American comic strip character, Dennis the Menace)
Dr. Christian Barnard (his hearts were always in the right place)
Emilie Schindler (wife of famous list keeper; should have married Nick Hornby)
Victor Kiam (liked death so much, he bought it)
Lord Cowdrey (not for nothing was Michael Colin Cowdrey given the initials MCC)
Sir Donald Bradman
Michele Alboreto (enjoyed a long largely unsuccessful Formula One career
Joey Maxim (former Light-heavyweight World Champion)
Sandy Saddler (former Featherweight World Champion)
John McKay (first coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
And so to the awards
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