Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Best of 2005

I didn’t bother with any end-of-year ‘best of’s’ on the site last December. In fact, I barely posted here at all, and with good reason: Bee was here, so why would I waste those precious moments making silly lists for my blog?

This time round I don’t have the excuse of spending time with a beautiful woman (at least not until next month, when I jet off to South Africa for a long-awaited getaway with said beautiful woman) but it still seems as equally pointless as it did last year, compiling my own detailed list of the best 2005 had to offer, especially when the web has already been pre-surfed for me.

If there’s any one place I can send you to, it has to be Fimoculous, which has hosted the Holy Grail of year-end lists for the past few years, with 2005 being no exception. If somebody somewhere has made a list and posted it online, chances are that Rex has found it and linked it. I’ll make a note to send him a few shekels for all the hard work.

I already spent some shekels on Kottke’s blog last February, and he’s kept up with the goods all year long. For the end-of-year clearance, he’s compiled his own best links of 2005, along with a bonus list of some of those that didn’t make the final cut. There’s quite a few gems in there that I’ll be reblogging myself in the weeks to come.

When it comes to the arts I won’t be noting any of my own best books or movies of the year, because I regard them both as distinctly atemporal media. (In other words, I rent DVDs and buy paperbacks so I’m always a year or so out of synch.) But I’m not one to leave you completely empty-handed.

I’m sure The Guardian’s Books of the Year report and The Onion A.V. Club’s Best Books of 2005 will steer you straight if you’re on the lookout for something good to read. (Of the A.V. Club’s list –which is refreshingly unafraid to defy genre and literary snobbishness — I’ve got Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore but have yet to read it, while Chris Ware’s The Acme Novelty Library will be added to my leaning tower of reading forthwith.)

Film-wise my 2005 was neatly dissected by a true highlight, We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, and bookended by two of the year’s (if not the decade’s) funniest flicks, Team America: World Police and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Three movies from the whole year isn’t much, I admit, but I’ll be using the A.V. Club’s guide to the year in film to plan some of my DVD rental choices for the coming months. So now you know.

As for music, I didn’t buy many albums this year since not having the temptation of a music store staff discount meant I was far more choosy. And of those I did purchase, most were back-cat (the Big Boys were on rotation for quite some time). In fact, of all the albums released here in the last 12 months, I only own five of them. Which is just the number required for my personal top five, conveniently enough. In no particular order:

  • I Am A Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons (Secretly Canadian)
    I’d heard of the band since the end of last year, but didn’t actually hear their music until the Mercury Prize on BBC Four in the autumn. Antony played ‘Hope There’s Someone’, and I damn well nearly cried, so I did. The album won the prize deservedly, and I finally got my own copy as a gift from Piglet just before Christmas. It’s wonderful stuff.
  • Bang Bang Rock & Roll by Art Brut (Fierce Panda)
    Two songs: ‘Formed a Band’ and ‘Modern Art’. Enough said.
  • The Campfire Headphase by Boards Of Canada (Warp)
    It’s not as good as Geogaddi, but I don’t think anyone expected it would be, really. The treated guitars add a fresh texture to their pastoral, nostalgic sound, which has always them far apart from the chill-out fraternity (and it’s what got me interested in them in the first place).
  • A Certain Trigger by Maximo Park (Warp)
    This was a late purchase. I let their videos (on MTV2, natch) grow on me as the year went on, and I’m quite partial to them now. Great pop music without the awful baggage, like a more high-octane Franz Ferdinand. Still don’t know how to pronounce their bloody name, though. Maximo. Max-ee-mo. Whatever.
  • For Screening Purposes Only by Test Icicles (Domino)
    Oh I know so many critics hate this band, but the critics have got their heads up their arses. If the phenomenal success of F. Ferdinand means that Domino has the funds to take more chances (like signing Test Icicles) then we’ll be all the better for it.

As for all the stuff I missed out on this year, I’m sure if it’s worth hearing the A.V. Club (again!) has covered it with their overview of the year in music. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of the records noted in this Barbelith thread, either, and there’s always Pitchfork’s top [insert bloody anything here] of 2005, if you’re willing to wade through all the hipstery nonsense.

Well. It seems this post has turned into exactly the kind of list I vowed at the beginning to avoid. But I’ve come this far so I might as well finish, by linking some of the year’s finest journalism and other news tidbits.

Thursday’s Guardian featured excerpts from the best articles of 2005 as chosen by the paper’s readers the world over. There are one or two bad apples (Polly Toynbee’s rant against Narnia was a tad hysterical, let’s be honest) but more than a few of those chosen were my favourites too (Ben Goldacre‘s series on MMR and the press, in particular, was the kind of writing that makes you want to clench your fist and shout “go get ’em!”).

Cyberjournalist.net also has a rundown of its most popular media stories for 2005. The tsunami and Katrina stories in particular will be added to the thesis section of this site (when I get around to updating it, that is).

This year has been an important one for photojournalism. Reuters has selected 40 images for its Pictures of the Year gallery (via Kottke), ranging from the silly to the poignant to the shocking, and every emotion in between. For even deeper resonance, Dan Chung’s year in pictures — where the Guardian staff photographer (and photographer of the year) gives an audio commentary for some of his own outstanding work throughout 2005 — is a must-visit.

On the more whimsical side, the BBC News Magazine has compiled a list of the 100 things we didn’t know this time last year. Lots of fluff, yes, but some interesting factoids too that you might well thank me for one day.

To wind things down, the year in a nutshell can be found at the Google Zeitgeist for 2005. Google went all out this year with the tabby, graphy goodness, and it’s obvious that someone in there has been reading about infographics. The World Affairs and Nature sections, especially, provide an intriguing snapshot of the web’s reaction to some of the year’s more memorable occurrences.

On a personal note, 2005 was a very significant year for me. While it began on something of a sombre note, saying goodbye to Benitha after an unforgettable three weeks together, I soon threw myself into my studies (as did she) and the weeks flew by, inching ever closer towards our shared goals.

It became a year of great personal achievement. My classmates and I published a magazine that turned out far more professional than we imagined, and should be a formidable challenge for next year’s group to better; I spent my summer in and out of the library researching and writing a thesis, the single largest body of work I’ve so far undertaken, and it’s something of which you have no idea how proud I am; and at the end, after months of hard work, I came out of it with a Master’s degree (First Class Honours, too). Not to mention that got my first paid work in my chosen profession, invaluable experience which bodes well for more professional success in the new year. I’ve kind of surprised myself, to be honest.

It’s taken a while to get to where I am now, but 2005 was the year the ball really got rolling. And if I have anything to do with it, 2006 will see that ball roll even faster.

And that’s enough from me, I think. It’s been a good year, to be sure, but now I’m going to put the computer to sleep and have a lie down. To all my readers, have a happy new year. See you on the other side.