[caption id="attachment_32345" align="alignright" width="144"] What if the Bible’s wrong?! PHOTO//WarmSleepy[/caption]
People are idiots. People listen to Justin Bieber records, people eat chicken from buckets and people paid to see Transformers 3. Therefore, it’s no wonder that when someone says an ancient civilisation, a magic book or a man in the sky told them that the world will soon end, many many people believe them. So in honour of it being yet another final day on Earth, let us bring you a low down on some of the best apocalypse predictions of all time.
Before we’d even properly got going as a human race, people were already looking forward to the end of time. Famous wolf-suckler and city-founder Romulus is said to have chosen the spot for Rome based on the appearance of 12 eagles and so naturally, people assumed that the capital of the empire would last a mere 120 years: 10 for each eagle. Makes sense when you think about it.
Doomsayers love a round number for some reason and few are rounder than 1000AD. Some historians believe that a thousand years after the baby Jesus came along, people across Europe prepared for the end. Charles McKay wrote: “The scene of the last judgement was expected to be at Jerusalem. In the year 999, the number of pilgrims proceeding eastward, to await the coming of the Lord in that city, was so great that they were compared to a desolating army. Most of them sold their goods and possessions before they quitted Europe, and lived upon the proceeds in the Holy Land. Buildings of every sort were suffered to fall into ruins. It was thought useless to repair them, when the end of the world was so near.”
1st February, 1524: London
Astrologers (that famously reliable group of people who should be legally obliged to have “” tattooed on their foreheads) predicted that a great flood would engulf the city. Sure it’s not a world ending thing but it did cause over 20,000 people to leave the city and the Priory Church of St Bartholomew to build an elevated fortress filled with supplies. When the year proved to be unusually dry, the astrologers played the “ohhh, I forgot to carry the one – what am I like?” card and said that the world would actually end in 1624 when everyone would conveniently be dead anyway.
[caption id="attachment_32350" align="aligncenter" width="300"] At least it makes a change from those “Keep calm” posters. PHOTO//uberalex[/caption]
Sometimes “the truth” can come from the humblest of places and this was never truer than in 1806. ‘The Prophet Hen of Leeds’ was a mysterious chicken who suddenly started laying eggs inscribed with the warning: “Christ is coming”. In a surreal scenario of Charlotte’s Webbian proportions, the locals swooped on the location, repenting of their numerous sins (it was Leeds after all) and begging God for forgiveness. However, it transpired that the only one having to suffer agonizing pain was the chicken herself who, after her eggs were written on in acid and ink by the farmer, would have her produce…returned from whence it came. Mackay says “At this explanation, those who had prayed, now laughed, and the world wagged as merrily as of yore,” so it kind of makes it all OK.
1910: Halley’s Comet
By this time, a bit like shampoo companies, crazies were having to back up their theories with something slightly resembling science and so the passing of Halley’s Comet provided a great opportunity. It was said that as the Earth passed through the comet’s tail, the minute amounts of cyanide would kill the entire population. People made thousands selling anti-comet gasmasks, anti-comet pills and anti-comet umbrellas (presumably followed by “I survived Armageddon and all I got was this lousy waistcoat” waistcoats).
Some credit must go to 19th Century uberlad Mark Twain for his own personal prediction:
“I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’”
He died the day after the comet passed. Which must have been at least some consolation.
20th Century: Jehovah’s Witnesses
Of course, the true spiritual home of the apocalypse is the USofA (Chris Columbus thought the world would end in 1658 so they got off to a bad start) and the most prolific predictors are the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Branching off from the Bible Student Group (who had already woken up 5 times to be surprised that the world hadn’t ended) the JWs believe that the apocalypse has already started. The Watchtower predicted that the Armageddon would culminate in 1914 and that the “Gentile times” would end. In a way, he was kind of 4% right as over the next 5 years, 17 million would die in the First World War and as many as 50 million would die of Spanish Flu.
The past century has included a prediction about once every decade. The current forecast is, the rapture will occur before the generation overlapping with the 1914 generation dies. Bless: you’ve got to admire them for trying.
1969: Charles Manson
In a time when the end of the world felt like a real possibility thanks to nuclear warfare, a number of predictions ended in definite tragedy. Musician and cult leader, Charles Manson, believed that the way to initiate “the apocalyptic race war” (which was foretold, no joke, by the Beatles) would be to order the brutal murder of several families. Similarly, after the world failed to end before 2000, approximately 778 followers of a Ugandan movement committed suicide or were murdered. These tragic events (as well as the hundreds of rapture induced suicides) show the terrible power that doomsaying cults hold.
[caption id="attachment_32347" align="alignright" width="164"] Spock can’t be wrong can he? PHOTO//Katie and Joe[/caption]
Fortunately, the consequences for most people believing that the year 1999 would be the last were simply red faces and a waste of money. Again, a slight whiff of science and the mass media generated huge levels of concern that the date ticking over would cause all the world’s computers to crash simultaneously. Instead, around $300 billion dollars was spent preparing for the disaster that was clocks looking a bit silly and people pretending they’d travelled back in time.
2011: Harold Camping
You may remember the practice apocalypse a couple of years back that was the “Bible guaranteed” Rapture promised by Christian radio presenting nutjob Harold Camping. By analysing the best-selling novel, the Rapture was set for 21st May 2011 thanks to the following logic:
5=atonement, 10=completeness and 17=heaven. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this stuff it’s just that obvious. I mean – durrrr.
1st April 33AD (when Jesus died, before resurrecting himself shouting APRIL FOOL!) is 1978 years and 51 days before 21st May 2011.
(Atonement x completeness x heaven)2=(5x10x17)2=722,500
Coincidence? I THINK NOT! This was staring us in the face all along and we didn’t realise it!
Strangely, something must have gone wrong with the maths because May 22nd rolled around and everyone still had jobs and families and mortgages. Apart from those people who’d spent their entire lifesavings to fund Camping’s $100 million advertising campaign.
Camping pulled the classic “actually, no, it’s actually going to happen in October” but by this point, people were bizarrely beginning to doubt what he said.
[caption id="attachment_32348" align="alignright" width="225"] It may actually be possible that this guy HEARD the apocalypse coming. PHOTO//IslesPunkFan[/caption]
21st December 2012: Mayan Calendar
So this brings us up to today and the real end of the world. This one’s got to be right, I mean, it’s got Mayans and they invented chocolate so they can’t be wrong. The essence of this prediction is simple: an ancient civilisation wrote down a calendar and because they need to buy a new one, the world is going to end.
The Mayans were pretty impressive: they invented a calendar with a unit called the b’ak’tun that lasts 144,000 days. I once bought a calendar that lasted 18 months and even the concept of that proved too much for me so I don’t know how they handled planning stuff hundreds of years in advance. Getting worked up about this is like getting worked up about having to take down “Fluffy Kittens in Welly Boots 2012” and replacing it with “Sexy Nuns Having Fun 2013”.
However, there is definitely something we can predict: Facebook will become unbearable over the next 24 hours as people celebrate their new lease of life and those who truly believe breathe a sigh of relief and laugh it off with the rest of us.
The Real Apocalypses
What’s scary is people don’t recognise the real apocalypses we face. Climate change truly threatens to destroy the Earth as we know it and yet we continue to burn down the Amazon. Heart disease will kill about a quarter of us but we still keep shovelling mini lasagne bites down our gullets. Every year 1.8 million children die from diarrhoea alone and yet we bought 27 million Furbies in 1998 so we’d have ickle pink fwends to talk to when we felt lonely oo look you can change their hair and they learn words and their ickle beaks go uppy downy like they’re eating oh let’s get 3 so they can talk to each other.
The fact is, we get so worked up about magic apocalypses we can’t do anything about because we can’t face the real apocalypses the world is facing every single day. And that’s sad.
Tweet @restyrestall to get involved in OxStu Sport’s SPOTY2012 live blog!
23.00 SPOTY Post-script. Robbo has just got in touch to remind me: “you do owe me a pint for the lack of paul scholes nomination”. That’s right, I inaccurately predicted that the veteran Man Utd midfielder would be up for a nomination following his heroic return to football this year. You win some, you lose some. Resty over and out.
22.31 Thanks to everyone who joined in tonight’s live blog – hope you enjoyed the show – have a great Christmas and see you in the new year!
22.30 “There’s a free bar paid for by the BBC,” jests a triumphant Wiggo, who completes a hattrick of personal sporting successes this year. So that’s where our license fee is going! Only joking, it’s been a fantastic night of entertainment from the Beeb, and a wonderful way to celebrate an unforgettable year of sport.
22.27 BRADLEY WIGGINS WINS! Robbo and I accurately predicted it back in Edinburgh in August. No need for this evening’s proceedings then, really…
22.26 London 2012′s poster girl Jess Ennis comes 2nd with Blur’s The Universal accompanying her on stage – so far so good for me and Robbo!
22.25 1.5m phone votes says Sue Barker. 3rd place is Andy Murray. Robbo and I are spot on so far…
Lennox Lewis presenting the award to Andy at the other end of a video screen – hilarity!
22.20 “I’m so flattered and so honoured to be the recipient of this trophy,” says Lord Coe. An emotional speech from ‘Mr London 2012′ who pays tribute to everyone who made the Olympics the success they were.
22.19 KATE MIDDLETON!
22.12 It’s the lifetime achievement award now, and the man who won SPOTY for that freekick in 2002 hands it to Lord Coe – the Olympics continue to dominate the night but you can’t deny he deserves it! Coe and his team delivered a games which went without a hitch.
Security at the Crystal Palace athletics ground prevented me from getting his autograph at the Grand Prix back in July 2005, weeks after London won the bid!
22.10 Football journalists Brian Woolnough and Danny Fullbrook remembered in the montage of sporting heroes to have passed away in the last year. The media lounge at Wembley Stadium has been renamed “The Danny Fullbrook Lounge”.
22.07 Bolt the overseas sports personality. Next.
22.02 “This show used to get genuine winners like David Steele” – more wise words from Restall Snr, who is getting ever more frustrated with the Olympics overload. Steele, a cricketer who won the award in 1975, was nicknamed “the bank clerk who went to war“. After bravely battling the Australian bowling might of Thompson and Lillee, notching up four half-centuries in the series. His local butcher apparently gave him a pork chop for every run he scored for the England test team. A true legend.
22.00 The clock strikes ten and Dave Brailsford is named as Britain’s top coach. After winning the last 8 games in a row, I’m told Leyton Orient’s Russell Slade was a close second for the trophy.
21.58 “Sounds like some kind of high-brow Opera” says my Dad to “Strauss and Navratilova” coming on stage to present the coach of the year gong. I’m inclined to agree – bizarre combo from the Beeb.
21.57 “’Team GB & Paralympics GB’: not a team. So stupid and yet so predictable. Yawn.” – wise words from a former-Somerville classicist. The Golfers woz robbed.
21.55 Roy Hodgson gets to sit next to Zara Phillips and one away from Tom Daley. Can we swap places Roy?
21.48 Time for Team of the Year. Any other year it would have been the golfers for their Ryder Cup exploits (see below) but it’s Team GB, #OurGreatestTeam, and yet another chance for Auntie Beeb to show us a montage of their coverage of London 2012. That wasn’t cynicism – our medal winning Olympic and Paralympic athletes crafted an unforgettable summer for these Isles. And who better than Oxford’s very own Sir Roger Bannister, fresh from meeting Tom Ough in June, to present the award.
Let’s also not forget Wigan Athletic in this category – the Beeb clearly haven’t with a cheeky pan over to Roberto Martinez. Classic!
@restyrestall: sorry, I’m on your Mum’s side #ComeOnANDY
21.44 Jim and Sue Horton presented with the Unsung Heroes award – “with a great team around you it’s amazing what you will achieve”
21.40 Was on a train to my to my Aunt’s 60th birthday party when the sporting world stood still on March 17 – it’s incredible that Fabrice Muamba is up on stage presenting an award nine months on tonight with the medical team which saved his life.
21.38 @darrenhunt has tweeted: “Football has lowered the tone on #SPOTY2012” – perhaps, but anyone beating Barcelona last season was like another sprinter snatching Bolt’s 100m crown!
21.34 Would love Roberto Di Matteo to get coach of the year, masterminded a first Champions League victory for Chelsea and an FA Cup to boot, before being sacked a few weeks back. But the smart money’s on Team Sky and Team GB cycling’s Dave Brailsford.
20.30 Get calling – the lines are all open and the numbers are backed by that epic Underworld track from the opening ceremony. I’ve just got goosebumps.
21.27 The “Weirwolf” is welcomed with a light-show which wouldn’t look out of place in a Dr Who episode, but it’s an incredibly well deserved entrance. His four golds were the undisputed highlight in the most successful Paralympics Team GB has ever had and as Clare Balding rightly said – put the games on a parallel with the Olympics.
21.25 I also can’t recall any mention of Roy Hodgson and England’s Euro 2012 campaign, but equally amidst
21.20 Team GB finished fourth on the track & field medals table with 4 golds – their best since 1964 – but head coach Charles van Commenee stepped down in September after failing to meet his target of 8 medals. Promising for Rio 2016 with such a taste for success.
21.13 Looking back on Super Saturday now, and a day which will forever go down in British history. Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all struck gold in an electric Olympic Stadium. The handful who chose to watch the evening’s proceedings at The Bullfinch in Riverhead helped the pub come alive during my shift.
21.11 Sergio Aguero tweets a picture of ExCel tonight: https://twitter.com/aguerosergiokun/status/280418743572647936/photo/1
21.09 “Why is Didier Drogba there?” says my bemused Dad, before I remind him that even if the footy isn’t top billing tonight, the Ivory Coast striker’s goal did win Chelsea their first Champions League crown back in May.
21.04 Sadly not a Rocky-esque montage for Team GB’s first female Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams but they’re more than making up for it by introducing the combat sport stars one by one onto the stage. Adams recently topped the IoS Pink List which recognises influential LGBT figures – ahead of tonight’s presenter Clare Balding.
20.59 @Tukka says: “If you don’t “get golf” after this montage, there’s no hope for you.#spoty2012” and he’s not far wrong – I wasn’t much of a golf fan until Europe completed “mission impossible” with an astonishing comeback at the Ryder Cup. Ian Poulter led the way as Europe snatched 8 and a half points on the final day in Medinah. Jose Maria Olazabal’s heroic golfers have to be the team of the year – I’ll eat my hat if it’s Man City.
20.56 Aside from a brief glimpse of Andrew Strauss, the England cricket team has also been forgotten tonight. While it’s been a mixed year for the test team following back-to-back Ashes glories with defeats to Pakistan and South Africa, Alastair Cook’s team are on the brink of an historic series victory in India. The new England captain recorded his 23rd test century last week.
20.53 The briefest of mentions to Peter Wilson who shot to fame in the clay pigeon event at London 2012 – one of the “forgotten champions” of the Olympics.
20.47 My mate Robbo has correctly predicted the last few SPOTY winners, including Cavendish last year. During the Edinburgh Fringe we discussed over a whisky the candidates for this year – scrawled on the back of a beer mat I have Wiggins, Ennis, Murray as the 1-2-3.
20.43 Yep, that’s a four second delay between Sue Barker and the Sir Chris Hoy videolink. Bringing back memories of the Mike Bassett videolink – footy fans will know what I’m talking about.
Top tweet: @PeterPRandRadio Is it me, or is #SPOTY2012 treating non-Olympic or non-Paralympic sports such as rugby, football and horse racing like ad breaks?#SPOTY
@restyrestall it’s nice to see some other sports take centre stage this year
20.39 @GuyFoxLondon asks the question on everyone’s lips this evening: What happens if there is a tie for Sports Personality of the Year? Does it get decided by degree of difficulty? #SPOTY2012
Top tweet: @andrewcembling What an incredibly moving story. Martine Wright a deserved winner of the Helen Rollason award 2012. The embodiment of courage#SPOTY2012
20.30 Martine Wright wins the Helen Rollason award for “outstanding achievement in the face of adversity” – what an incredible story. Wright competed at the Paralympics in the sitting volleyball having lost both of her legs in the 7/7 bombings, the day after London won the games. She dedicates her award to PC Elizabeth Kenworthy who saved her life, and the 52 who were tragically killed in the attacks.
20.27 Comedian Lee Nelson attempts to bring British rowing back down to earth with a bump (punbelievable tekkers there…) by tweeting: “We only won the rowing coz we’ve got more posh people than any other country #spoty2012“. But at least he loves the Rad Cam…
20.23 Rowing is now in the limelight, and it’s a year Katherine Grainger (a modern day Robert the Bruce according to Clare Balding) will never forget. It’s also been a year of highs and lows for Oxford’s rowers – Trinity’s Constantine Louloudis picked up a bronze stroking the Men’s 8 but earlier in the year Trenton Oldfield hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – if the BBC did a “Villain of the Year” surely he’d be a contender?
20.19 Live via videolink, Murray and Sue Barker joke about his Wimbledon speech which left the nation in more tears than when Peter Colt won it in the 2003 film version…
20.18 I’m in agreement with @ma77anderson – this has been the toughest one to call for years. #comeoneandy anyone?
Top tweet: @ma77anderson Can’t decide which #spoty2012 short lister to vote for – just let them all have one each eh? #fb
20.16 “I’m a Murray fan” says my brother Will, but the Restall family favourite doesn’t appear to be the nation’s favourite. Wiggo still the bookies’ best bet for the crown tonight.
20.13 Balding banters with the Brownlee brothers – couldn’t resist a bit of alliteration. World Champion Jonathan memorably battled back to take the bronze in the Olympic triathlon after a time penalty as older brother Alistair took gold.
20.09 The ExCel is doing the Poznan as Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany celebrate Man City’s Premier League title on stage with Gary Lineker. Don’t get me wrong – City’s title win on the last day of the 2011/12 season was incredible, but no way near as inspirational as the Paralympic triumphs we’ve just relived.
20.06 One of London 2012′s poster boys Tom Daley is up on stage to present the Young Sports Personality of the Year award – an award the diver has won three times. Daley hands this year’s trophy to Josef Craig, a 15-year-old swimmer who took gold in the 400m freestyle at the Paralympics.
20.00 Clare Balding notes that Ellie Simmonds is just 18 but has already lived an incredibly full sporting life. Simmonds secured a second double-gold haul two swimming at the Paralympics and has already won the Young Sports Personality of the Year gong after winning two gold medals aged just 13 in Beijing.
19.58 Right. Back from the kitchen armed with a chicken pie – this is going to be a long night.
Top tweet: @tara_mulholland Right, that’s it, I’m gonna say it – I fancy Bradley Wiggins rotten, and none of you can stop me #SPOTY2012
19.50 Bizarre mention of the Cardiff v Liverpool League Cup final – I suppose they have to get football in somewhere. If “Sporting Events in 2012″ were a category on BBC’s quiz show Pointless, I’d guarantee you now that Alexander Armstrong would be listing that game as a “pointless” answer. Even I’d forgotten it and I live and breathe football…
19.46 First British winner of the Tour de France and Olympic time trial king Bradley Wiggins very gracious onstage with Sue Barker praising the team behind his triumphs – you could be mistaken for thinking it was the Brit Awards as Wiggo looks more Paul Weller than Olympian!
19.43 Welcome! As you can imagine, the night is going to be one massive homage to London’s hugely-successful Olympic games. We’ve already had last year’s winner Mark Cavendish return his award – unfortunately the cyclist was unsuccessful in his attempt to win gold in the men’s cycling road race.
Join OxStu Sport as we look back on a phenomenal year of sport with the BBC’s annual awards ceremony. This year’s gong is broadcast live from London’s ExCel centre which hosted Boxing, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Fencing, Judo, Wrestling and Weight Lifting at London 2012. Nicola Adams and Anthony Joshua were among the Team GB gold medal winners at the venue.
It’s what you’ve all been waiting for… the OxStu’s famous Albums of the Year Countdown!
We’ve surveyed a wide range of music lovers for their favourite records of 2012 and collected their choices in order to provide you with the definitive list of the year’s best musical offerings. To order the results, we assigned points to albums based on their positions in the Top Ten lists of our participants, and then did some painstaking analysis in order to whittle down over 117 nominated albums to 20 heavyweights. So read the reviews, get the albums, and, er, ignore the fact that it’s only November.
20. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Converge are back at their thrillingly visceral best. All We Love We Leave Behind is an attempt to capture, but not restrain, the unhinged beauty of their live shows. They’ve cut back on the production, guest appearances and samples of their previous albums like Axe To Fall, in order to let the stunning instrumentals and Bannon’s wretched, desperate lyrics shine through. AWLWLB harnesses the passion of Jane Doe with the vitality of their hardcore roots, to produce one of the most poignantly brutal albums of the year.
19. The Maccabees -Given To The Wild
Given To The Wild was always going to represent the moment when The Maccabees either made their music their own, or fell into the ever-increasing abyss of teenage indie-bands which never quite hit the mark. This record sees a new, maturer sound; the vocals are brooding, whilst the heartfelt lyrics detail their emotional growth. The variation and journey of the album overcomes the occasionally Coldplay-esque feel, and with riffs as simple yet as beautiful as that in ‘Ayla,’ they can’t go wrong.
18. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Celebration Rock picks up where Post-Nothing left off, using the same formula but bettering the result. The title really captures the essence of Japandroids, and its eight tracks are guitar-driven tributes to the endless excitement of adolescence. ‘The House That Heaven Built’, with its soaring, distorted chords and sing-a-long refrain is the album’s strongest track, and representative of their remarkable sound, seemingly beyond the capabilities of a duo. Celebration Rock is a brilliant sophomore release.
17. Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes
Built from the blocks of dreamspace and the unknown, this is a more abstract beast than Steven Ellison’s previous offerings. Sounds don’t explode but are hinted at, and though handclaps and deep vocal samples may be a little on-message in 2012, Until The Quiet Comes runs alone. Or does it float? Intricate and jazzy in places, glossy and even-handed elsewhere; it’s varied but never schizophrenic. Not a tangential, but rather a progressive record, this is probably his classiest to date.
16. The xx - Coexist
The xx ensured they didn’t become another Mercury Prize winning flop with Coexist, an album that perhaps even surpasses their debut. From opener ‘Angels’, the album is an aural house of cards, so delicate it feels like the slightest whisper may knock it down; in a good way. Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s vocal exchanges create an album which is more than just a group of songs, but a beautifully crafted, cohesive whole.
15. The Cribs - In the Belly of the Brazen Bull
In the Belly of the Brazen Bull is the first Cribs album I’d describe as a grower. They’re getting subtler as they develop, and listening to this release requires a bit more maturity from their audience. They’ve been criticised for it, but nobody wants the same album five times. Here, The Cribs take the raw integrity of their early material and combine it with new-found depth, without sacrificing too much of their catchy melody. It’s a strong album from an uncompromisingly passionate band.
14. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Given that we’ve already experienced Jack White’s musical talents filtered through incarnations of three different bands, it seems unbelievable that he hasn’t made a solo album until now. What is believable is that it would sound like this. Blunderbuss takes the essence of White’s various projects and unites them in a glorious melange of genres. Blues, jazz, and rock-opera are fused with his trademark stomping riffs and screeching guitar solos. It’s raw and riotous, with just the right amount of stripped-back blues to balance the rip-roaring singles.
13. Liars - WIXIW
WIXIW (pronounced ‘wish you’) is the most polished Liars record to date, eschewing much of the lo-fi production that adorned their previous releases with a sense of unhinged menace. This throws greater attention on the songwriting, which induces as much wonderful anxiety as ever. Coldly artificial drums skitter all over the lush electronic cascades as the band take in the drawn-out drive of krautrock, and Angus Andrew’s disillusioned groans and wails are as infectious as ever. A darkly brilliant exercise in sustained threat.
12. Actress – R.I.P.
Having blurred the distinctions between dance genres on Splazsh, Darren Cunningham transcends them altogether on the blazingly original R.I.P. Regular beats are largely supplanted by rhythmically gaping space or rejected altogether, and his arrangements are at times so free that the parts run together as casually as ripples on a lake. But it never loses momentum, ever-evolving, unified by the burbling melodies of garbled techno nostalgia. In terms of UK electronic music, Actress is on his own plane.
11. Swans - The Seer
The Seer feels like more than just an album. There is an elemental power about the construction and collapse of the monumental sound structures that fill its two disk length; disregarding utterly mankind’s penchant for order and structure. The gradually unfolding textures are both a supreme opportunity for escapism and an evocation of the unseen natural forces the shifting of tectonic plates and the rise and fall of mountains that the album’s human themes pale beside. Michael Gira’s best work to date is truly a force of nature.
10. Tallest Man On Earth - There’s No Leaving Now
Sometimes having obvious influences isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t take long to spot Kristian Matsson’s, but over the last few years the Swedish Dylan has released consistently strong songs with some of the prettiest guitar-playing around. Though he hasn’t quite gone electric, There’s No Leaving Now, Matsson’s third album as The Tallest Man On Earth, adds enough new texture to the lone acoustic guitar of previous releases to keep things fresh without losing the intimacy that makes his best songs so powerful.
9. Jessie Ware -Devotion
Sprouting from Brixton’s gritty nucleus, Jessie Ware has trodden a musical path which has led to the fruition of an album so stirringly beautiful that her burst into the mainstream is unsurprising. With simple and strong vocals, but a production clearly indicative of Ware’s previous diet of dance music and drum ‘n’ bass, Devotion manages to achieve astounding refinement without seeming polished. Standout tracks include the ethereal ‘110%’, the catchy rhythms of ‘Sweet Talk,’ and the unabashedly listenable ‘Night Life.’
8. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
Frank Ocean revitalised the world of R&B with his 2011 mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA. This july he topped it, returning in fashion with an album full of soaring vocals and sleek production. Ocean doesn’t compromise; his honesty and self-awareness on tracks like ‘Pyramids’ and ‘Bad Religion’ define the record and set it apart from its competition. Guest spots from Andre 3000 and fellow Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt don’t hurt either. Here is an artist who has injected life into a genre that too often seems cold and calculated, and channel ORANGE just might be his masterpiece.
7. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
Old Ideas proves that, despite his age, Leonard Cohen remains the patron saint of student bedsits. Track one, ‘Going Home’, opens, “I love to speak with Leonard, he’s a sportsman and a shepherd.” Although experience has taught me to be wary of musicians apt talk about themselves in the third person, this release has none of the self-indulgence one expects of an album whose artwork is dominated by monochrome self-portraits. Sparse, melancholy, and comforting, this is the quintessential autumn album.
6. Beach House - Bloom
To say that Bloom is one of the weakest offerings from Baltimore duo Beach House is a testament to the quality of their work rather than a detriment to this album. The record is yet another haunting example of what the band does best; unearthly music with chilling riffs. Though the best song of the album is indisputably the mesmerising ‘Wishes’, Bloom should not be listened to song by song but as a collection. A sense of the ethereal, prevalent across the pair’s work, is here nurtured to perfection.
5. Tame Impala - Lonerism
Tame Impala’s 2010 debut, Innerspeaker, was a whirl of psychedelic rock that garnered rave reviews and launched songwriter Kevin Parker into the spotlight. Lonerism is a worthy follow up. Whilst it retains what made Innerspeaker so good – 60s sounds with 21st century production, Parker’s distorted vocals, and some seriously catchy hooks – there are notable changes.
Lonerism is more diverse than its predecessor. ‘Keep on Lying’ contains classic pop elements, a simple chorus, and healthy dose of synth, yet breaks into a Strokes-esque riff during a two-minute instrumental reprise. Parker’s experimentation with ambient noise is also surprisingly successful. Arguably the standout track is ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,’ detailing a failing relationship set to a gorgeous melody and shrouded in waves of guitar and synth. Parker may sing about sadness and isolation, but his second collaboration with The Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann is an unmitigated success.
4. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
GY!BE don’t do album promotions. The first anyone knew of ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! was when they slipped it on to the merch table at a concert earlier this year, but you can rest assured it is a triumphant return after a ten year hiatus. In true Godspeed-style, the album contains just four tracks, but lasts more than fifty minutes. Tracks one and three, ‘Mladic’ and ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire,’ both clock in around the twenty minute mark, and are framed by two pieces of drone; the string cacophony of ‘Their Helicopter’s Sing,’ and the slightly menacing distortion of ‘Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable.’ ‘Mladic’ is soaring and unconstrained, whilst ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’ is much tighter and controlled in its crescendo, showcasing the band’s capability for both untrammeled fury and melodious orchestration. GY!BE have returned spectacularly, matching, if not exceeding, their earlier accomplishments.
3. ∆ - An Awesome Wave
Winning the Cambridge-based quartet a Mercury Prize last month, Alt-J’s debut’s was written to be listened to from start to finish. The thirteen perfectly constructed tracks, despite each possessing a distinct identity, seem to fit together like a jigsaw. Whilst belonging to an atmospheric and intimate alternative rock genre that has recently been dubbed ‘folk-step’, their soundscapes are a wholly unique blend. Vocals seamlessly infiltrate the layered instrumental texture with candid lyrics and endearing folk-inspired harmonies. In this way, the beginning of the album is particularly enticing with songs such as ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Breezeblocks,’ yet, towards the end, the music becomes more introverted. The lyrics are ripe with allusion which, coupled with a diverse range of experimental song structures, leaves a lasting impression. Despite the unconventional composition however, the music feels entirely accessible and honest. With every song proving to be a favourite, An Awesome Wave refuses to become tiresome.
2. Grizzly Bear – Shields
The fourth album from Grizzly Bear is their most mature and intricate yet. Adding new emotional depths to their already distinctive medley brand of jazzy, indie folk-infused baroque pop, Shields is an intelligently crafted and thoroughly addictive work. On ‘Sleeping Ute’, the creative instrumental strands of each member combine wonderfully in a hypnotic swirl that finely complements Daniel Rossen’s melancholic vocals. ‘Speak In Rounds’ sees a slick bass plod along beside slowly building synths into a groovy yet frenzied chorus. The album’s highlight is ‘Yet Again’ where Edward Doste’s pristinely gorgeous vocals are laced with a sense of irresistible ennui. The album does have its lighter moments too, on ‘A Simple Answer’ and ‘Gun-Shy’. The album is certainly one of the finest of 2012 and this decade so far. The only thing stopping it from being truly great is closing track ‘Sun In Your Eyes,’ where Grizzly Bear’s baroque indulgences become slightly excessive.
1. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. city
So here it is: the OxStu’s album of 2012. It truly is interesting that the only rap album to make the top twenty actually topped the list, but it isn’t that surprising. Kendrick Lamar completely separated himself from his competitors this year; while most rappers stuck with sex, drugs and money, he crafted a stunning concept album about youth, temptation and redemption. good kid, m.A.A.d. city transcends the usual limitations of its genre: Lamar unfolds his story with nuance and depth without sacrificing charisma and his trademark dizzying wordplay, and this lyricism is backed up by lush production that keeps you engrossed throughout. It isn’t the sort of album you can dip in and out of. It’s a story about coming of age in an abandoned part of society, a record that demands to be listened to as a whole. In short, it’s an album. And it’s the best album of 2012.
Tom Rutland will be next year’s OUSU President after claiming a decisive victory over Izzy Westbury.
The Jesus JCR President polled just under a thousand votes more than Westbury and received over 60 per cent of vote.
Rutland told The Oxford Student: “It’s an absolute honour and a true privilege to be elected OUSU President. I’m really excited to get started next summer and looking forward to seeing out our policies!
“Thank you so much to everyone who voted and especially to our amazing group of candidates, agents and supporters who gave up so much time to help us. It’s been a great night and I can’t wait to work with the fantastic team of officers that were elected today.”
Tom Adams, the Lead Agent for Rutland’s campaign, added: “I’m so proud of the work of all of our candidates and supporters in the past few days. The reason we won this election, and by such a large margin, was because of the legwork put in by a huge range of people from across the university.
“I’m so happy to be part of an OUSU Presidential campaign which broke 2000 votes for the first time in recent memory, and am sure that Tom Rutland will make a fantastic OUSU President.”
Westbury, who was President of the Oxford Union in Michaelmas 2011, said: “I really enjoyed running in this election and the people I’ve met and worked with along the way. We brought in a few innovative ideas and it’s just a shame we couldn’t convert the social media campaign to votes – too little too late it would seem!”
It’s the final countdown! The team here at Comment are going to be blogging live as the results come in. We’ll draw in sources from news sites, Twitter and elsewhere, and try and draw your attention to the big news that matters as each state declares. We’ll also look for anything funny that’s going on anywhere – after all, this is an American election, and the race has been full of bizarre moments thus far.
We’ve got a team of Americans (and Brits, indeed) on hand to provide some commentary from their own perspective as the evening going on. We’ll also be answering any questions you might have in the comments below, and we’d love to hear from you as we run the very late shift, particularly if you’d like any aspect of the process explained. We’ll be live from midnight (GMT, 19:00 EST) on Tuesday as the first polls begin to close through to about 9:00 (04:00 EST) Wednesday morning, or later if the result takes a particularly long time to declare.
In 1920s America, a craze swept the nation which provided escapism for those languishing in the Great Depression: dance marathons caught the public imagination. Entrants were required simply to dance for as long as they could while being cheered on by an audience, and the last one standing won a cash prize. Simple.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="406"] The North Wall celebrates its 5th birthday with its first first in-house production.[/caption]
The setting for Emmy award-winning Ron Hutchinson’s new play, Dead on Her Feet is some 10 years later, in the 1930s, which adds to this degrading world of entertainment the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash. Mel Carney (Jos Vantyler) is a dance marathon promoter who has come to Pulaski Falls in the hope of making a quick buck. After clearing out the old Grand American Ballroom, he employs McDade (Ben Whybrow), a hired heavy with pretentions of becoming a writer, to help him preside over the three couples who decide to compete: Wally (Sam Trueman) and Bonnie (Kelly Gibson), a vivacious down-on-her-luck girl met by chance at the station; Myron, the most educated man in Pulaski, and his emotionally fragile partner Rita (Rowan Schlosberg and Victoria Fisher); and Velma (Sandra Reid), who has travelled for days to be there, but – lacking a partner – persuades Jake (Lloyd Thomas), a fortuitously placed delivery boy, to join her on her quest for the $500 prize.
The rest of play depicts the marathon, dealing with a myriad of themes and questions along the way. These are largely woven in successfully, but its density means that the same conversation is often rehashed to ensure we haven’t forgotten the situation, leading to an over-extended piece. It speaks clearly to contemporary financial concerns, with Carney greeting his ‘audience’ by asking, “Anyone out there having hard times? Well sure, aren’t we all?”. Myron will perhaps seem the most familiar to the student body, rallying against a world where his Ivy League education has not delivered its promised pot of gold: employment. It would be impossible to miss such obviously modern day parallels, and director Barry Kyle’s need to emphasise them with modern dance music and beat-boxing is unnecessary and peculiar. Rather than drawing us further into the world, it reaffirms the artifice – something enhanced by the lack of distinction between characters talking to the ‘audience’ and the more internal, ‘backstage’ discussions about how gullible ‘they’ (we) are to be taken in by such brazen showmanship. The various elements of meta-theatricality alienate the unfolding horror, and a lack of internal logic means that always we remain distanced.
The actors are all strong, with Vantyler in particular giving a performance that is both exhilarating and exhausting. He is the consummate showman, twirling and tap-dancing through the play, dallying closer to the edge of madness as he goes. Reid too, in the few moments when she has our complete attention, brings a startling and refreshing honesty. Fundamentally, though, the production doesn’t quite fulfil the script’s promise, falling from the difficult tight-rope it walks between a pastiche of quintessentially 30s Americanisms and hard-hitting look at the depths to which civilised people stoop for entertainment. Though the events depicted are accurate and reminiscent of a modern Colosseum, we are left with a production which disappointingly fails to reflect the visceral brutality of its source material.
Swan Song began in a pub in Oxford as a solution for curing some angry thesis
blues. An initially very embarrassing digging up of respective poetry ensued,
plans for a two-woman show in a taxi were floated and an eventual decision
was made to go for Edinburgh. Two women’s poetry, a couple of pints and a
characteristically bold attitude left us with Swan Song – a play with four actors,
two Edinburgh venues and no taxi.
I have directed two pieces of my own writing before, but this was definitely the
most challenging. Before starting I decided to take a rather different approach to
this play, due to the nature of the script and the length of both the rehearsal and
performance processes. I really wanted the cast to feel that the script worked for
them as we would be with it for such a long time; I tried to encourage as much
flexibility with the script as possible, chopping and changing lines and modifying
scripted aspects of characters. It was fascinating and mostly very enjoyable to
hear what the cast thought certain lines meant, particularly when it differed with
my intention; I tried to keep my reserved interjection of “I don’t think that’s what
the writer meant at all” to a minimum.
The Edinburgh Fringe is both a wonderful and a very tricky place to try out new
writing. On the one hand, it is a festival with one of the widest ranges of theatre
available and punters are generally looking to see something new and exciting.
On the other, those very punters are aware they are at a festival with that range
and want to see something good. New writing is not tried and tested, it’s not safe
and it’s not guaranteed to be good. So it’s a risk.
I knew that Swan Song would be a risky choice but it was a risk that I wanted
to take. Yes, we’ve got four very tired actors, a hungover crew, a stressed out
director and two thousand origami swan flyers left to fold, but we’ve also had a
lot of fun, seen some very good and some hilariously bad theatre and sold some
tickets on the way.
Pixar’s latest release, the Scottish themed fantasy adventure Brave, is unlikely to disappoint any of the fans of the studio who have grown up with such classics as Finding Nemo and Toy Story; it is amply endowed with all the qualities that audiences look for in a family movie. Its humor is never cutting and its action sequences never disturbing, making it the sort of movie that the most cautious of parents would have no problem putting on for their children on a rainy afternoon. Certainly, the parents themselves might not be glued to the screen, but they would probably drift in and out, occasionally chuckling at a few of the jokes, sighing over the more endearing of the animated characters, and marveling at the visual effects. For this is one of Pixar’s softer, gentler movies, closer to Toy Story 3 than The Incredibles or Dreamworks’ Shrek, since it lacks the underlying adult cynicism and irony that gives those movies their sense of ribald, ever so slightly inappropriate fun. In stark contrast to Shrek, Brave treats the battle between good and evil with the utmost reverence; there is nothing to laugh at about its main villain, a ferocious bear named Mor’du. Fans of the Shrek series might miss more colorful, flamboyant baddies like Lord Farquaad and the Fairy Godmother; the closest thing this movie gets to such zany characters is a woodcutting witch voiced by Julie Walters, whose spirited performance leaves one wishing she had a bigger part to play in the rest of the movie.
This is not to say that Brave’ is devoid of laughs. On the contrary, there is no shortage of slapstick in the chaotic crowd scenes in which the various Scottish clans gather, or in the comic chase scenes involving the heroine’s three mischievous little brothers. But such lightheartedness is entirely absent from the story’s central conflict; the power struggle that unfolds between parent and child. Unlike the grandiose, supernatural plots that dominate most fantasy movies, like a quest to rescue a princess, defeat a monster, or save the world, the challenge confronted by the heroine of this movie is one that most children face every day; how to reconcile their desire for freedom with their feelings of duty and love for their family. Parents too might be able to identify with the inner conflict suffered by the heroine’s mother, voiced by a convincingly Scottish sounding Emma Thompson; her natural impulse to take care of her child is checked by a growing recognition that the child is becoming a person in her own right. ‘Brave’ makes both of these perspectives immediately understandable, without simplifying either of them to the point of caricature. The conclusion of the movie does not represent the triumph of either the heroine or her mother, but rather the restoration of balance between them. Total victory for the mother would have made the movie authoritarian to the point of being unwatchable; total victory for the daughter would have made the movie rebellious to the point of being subversive. This way at least, both parties are satisfied, and the movie achieves universal family appeal.