15 December 1998

1998: The Year in Review

If you've looked at the news this year, you'd would be thinking that only four things were important.

Monica Lewinsky.

The bombing of Iraq.

The collapse of the South East Asian economies.

And, Seinfeld's last episode.

And these all annoy the living snot out of me, because these were all fine examples of hypocrisy in action.

Take the South East Asian economic crisis. First of all, Mahathir Mohammed, the Malaysian Prime Minister makes the absurd claim that those economies were in ruin because of speculative trading by hedge funds. This was always going to be laughable coming from a guy who gets rid of political opponents by having them arrested on trumped up charges of sodomy. Not to mention the fact that if this was the case, we would have seen a correction straight away as traders sought to capitalise on this.

But then various economic gurus got in on the act, and started the ball rolling by saying that unchecked trading by hedge funds was getting out of hand, and, in one case of abstract expressionism, would apparently lead to the "collapse of capitalism" internationally.

As I guffawed my way through all the various reading material that was presenting itself, it became clear to me that economic gurus themselves were showing hypocrisy that was blatant in a way that the Wiggles are the Spice Girls for a new generation.

I might just quickly point out that, although the Spice Girls are now history, and we shall hear less and less of them, until the odd one turns up in a Penthouse centrefold, the Wiggles have been around for a good many years, catering to their core audience, longer than the Spice Girls ever were. Plus, the Wiggles never 'sold out', to use a terribly cliched and pretentious phrase.

But back to the topic at hand.

If you recall 1997, you may remember that the Nobel Prize in Economics was won by a group of speculators who somehow managed to make billions of dollars with a trust fund that they set up specifically for that purpose. Or maybe you don't.

Anyway, the economic line of thought these days has swung 180┬║ to the point where making profit out of international hedge funds is no longer 'cool'. People of the standing of the IMF, World Bank, George Soros, Warren Buffett et al are lining up to push the point that there should be more controls on speculative capital flows.

The fact these people and institutions are condemning a free market in capital is all of rude, arrogant and downright disgusting, when you consider that these people make their profits out of hedging their capital. George Soros once made a few billion dollars out of gambling on sterling, in the space of a few days. The sheer tenacity these people display borders on the paranoid.

I refuse to comment on Monica Lewinsky, and the Iraq thing. Americans just earn my contempt, these days. It is the world's decadent Roman Empire, and I welcome the day when the lean and hungry barbarians from the south come in search of the wealth that the USA has plundered from them. Viva la revolu├žion!

But I will comment on the last episode of Seinfeld.

Not much annoys me. I hate war. I hate horseracing. I really hate Seven's Summer of Tennis. But Seinfeld was truly the pits.

This show ran for nine years, and was as close to a creative vacuum as you could get. Honestly, the jokes were as tired as an episode of Hey! Hey! It's Saturday! You had this show that was seriously, seriously, unfunny. And don't say it wasn't: there is enough evidence to suggest that it was the worst TV show ever to go to air. When one hack in the media put Seinfeld up there with Cheers, MASH, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, he was spouting hyperbole that could lead to a suicide attempt a few years from now.

Here are a few reasons why Seinfeld doesn't even make it into the top ten thousand sitcoms of all time.

  • The Young Ones, Blackadder, McHale's Navy, The Phil Silvers Show, Get Smart, Newsradio, need I go on?
  • Jerry Seinfeld's monologues - excruciatingly bad. Not only can this guy not act, but he cannot deliver a punchline, and his twee observations on life are so bad, that I genuinely felt embarrassed for the guy.
  • Kramer. One jerk of the head, one joke. The fact that people continually found this funny says far too much regarding the quality of TV programs at the moment.
  • Elaine. Surprisingly, she had the best material on the show, but had to put on this whiny voice in order for the viewers to find something about her that was less likeable than the star so that she didn't get her own Frasier-esque spin-off.
  • George. Funnier than the rest of the (regular) cast combined. Maybe because Jason Alexander can genuinely act, yet just wasn't good enough to redeem this truly lamentable piece of televisual excrement.

The sad fact about Seinfeld was that a "show about nothing" - which it was not, unironically - pulled so many gullible viewers, when it was as funny as lifting the top off a scab. Yet, people will also watch Mad About You, which is nearly as bad. I just don't get it. I have to say this, though. I have changed my mind on Friends. It can actually be quite good in spots, especially when the characters aren't trying quite so hard to be likeable, and also when David Schwimmer's and Jennifer Aniston's characters aren't within cooee of the camera.

But I think that it is time to wrap up, so here are my picks of the year.

Best Movie: Wild Things - this had me going from start to finish. Denise Richards provided the best two parts of the movie, and it had more ridiculous twists in it than you could poke a stick at. Special mentions should go to Neve Campbell and Kevin Bacon on a job well done.

Best CD: The Dandy Warhols Come Down (The Dandy Warhols) - These guys played a whole CD of drug-taking psychedelia and get up and get down pop that is best played loud enough for the neighbours to yell: "Hey, turn that hippy shit off!!"

Best computer game: Unreal - when you're in that corridor where you've just pressed the two big red switches, and the lights go off one by one, you think that you've just entered Hell. Truly a masterfully atmospheric game, with lots of violent carnage, the way we all like it.

Best song: Sich Offnen (Not From There) - When this guitar hits you, it's like being slammed into the side of a freight train that's being pulled by about five locomotives, and with it's killer chorus, "I watch you laugh/I watch you cry/I watch you fade away/ahhoooooooooo," you will never want to not hear that song again.

Best Sit Com: Newsradio - this one snuck up on me faster than a pensioner on a longneck of Carlton Draught. Every character is insane, and it showed the genius that was Phil Hartman, before his untimely demise.

Bloke(ette) of the year: (past winners include Carlos the Jackal, Jackie Chan and Heidi Fliess) This year, and no surprise, I gave it to the late Phil Hartman. But in an interesting twist, he dead-heated with Christina Ricci. We all loved Phil, without exceptions. We loved Lionel Hutts, attorney-at-law. We loved the has-been actor Troy McClure, who you might remember from such films as "Dial M for Murderousness" and "The President's Neck is Missing". And we all loved The Real Deal with Bill McNeill. RIP Phil. We'll miss you. But Christina Ricci? Let's just say that no former child star has ever exuded sex appeal in such a way before, and this includes Drew Barrymore, Macauley Culkin and Shirley Temple.

Well, that was my year in hindsight. I hope that no one mentions 1998 to me again. Happy Hanukkah, and remember that Santa only wears red because Coca Cola made him do it.

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