In March of 2014, Culturedallroundman.com reemerged after a winter spent in hibernation – during which time I had relocated from Amsterdam, and begun studying towards a PhD in literature at the University of York. Between March and the end of December, amid assorted other pieces on art and culture, the following articles pertained particularly to the year 2014.
News and Politics
Four pieces in March extensively covered the situation in Ukraine, as it developed first in Crimea, and then in the country’s east. ‘Crimea: A Literary Perspective’ began with an overview of the Euromaidan protests, from their beginning in November 2013 to their culmination in February as Viktor Yanukovych was removed from his position as President of Ukraine. It then attempted to contextualise Russia’s intervention in Crimea via a portrayal of the region’s political and cultural history. I looked particularly across the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, viewing Crimea through the eyes of four great writers: Pushkin in the Caucasus, Crimea, and Odessa; Tolstoy in Sevastopol; Chekhov in Yalta; and Nabokov in Gaspra.
‘The Crimean Referendum: What Comes Next?’ was written in response to the Crimean referendum held on 16 March, and contemplated the position of the Crimean Tatars as the disputed results of the referendum paved the way for Crimea’s integration with Russia. ‘The Crimean Referendums of 1991 and 1994’ described two earlier Crimean referendums which – as the Soviet Union broke down, and Crimea negotiated its relationship with a newly independent Ukraine – asked the citizens of Crimea about the autonomous status of the region.
‘A Brief History of Ukraine’ offered a history of the country from the time of Kievan Rus, as attention turned to Ukraine’s east. I considered the emergence of Ukrainian national identity through the 1800s, with a focus on the divergent literary careers and national reputations of Taras Shevchenko and Nikolai Gogol; before detailing the foundations of the modern Ukrainian state following the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917. Finally, I gave a concise history of the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv.
In September I dwelt with some ambivalence on the celebrity phone hack scandal in ‘How to Care About Celebrity Privacy on the Internet?’. This was a month of polls. The Scottish independence referendum, and some of the ramifications of the ‘no’ vote, were covered in ‘Scotland’s Referendum and Why ‘English Votes for English Laws’ is Unpalatable’. ‘2014 Swedish General Election Results: With Whom Will the Social Democrats Govern?’ investigated the Swedish election which took place on 14 September. The results allowed the Social Democrats – out of power for eight years – to form government, but in trying circumstances which included the rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats. I placed the September vote in a context of Swedish general elections extending back to 1911: the first Swedish general election with universal male suffrage, and the ground of Sweden’s modern party system.
‘Viewing UKIP Policy in the Aftermath of the Clacton By-Election’ allowed for a comprehensive look at UKIP policy as the anti-immigration party gained its first elected MP. UKIP’s policy offering is elusive and subject to change at the whim of Nigel Farage; but after the party’s Doncaster conference, it is capable of being gathered and critiqued. Towards the end of November, ‘Rochester and Strood and the Shape of Immigration Rhetoric’ interpreted UKIP’s second by-election victory; and further condemned UKIP policy alongside the flowering of a deceptive and demeaning anti-immigration rhetoric. The piece discussed Emily Thornberry’s ‘white van’ tweet and a prospective referendum on membership of the EU; and linked statistics relating to the benefits EU migrants bring to the UK.
Finally, in the middle of December, ‘PR, Negative Parliamentarism, and Sweden’s Budget Vote’ returned to Swedish politics, as new Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced a snap election on the back of the defeat in the Riksdag of his government’s proposed budget. Reversing his initial announcement, Löfven has since ruled out a new election – at least for the time being, now that the ruling Social Democrat and Green Party coalition has reached a compromise with the four-party Alliance for Sweden. My piece showed how Sweden’s electoral and investiture processes allowed for such a political entanglement.
Art and Entertainment
‘The Unknown Known: The Epistemologies of Errol Morris and Donald Rumsfeld’ was a philosophically-minded consideration of Errol Morris’s latest documentary film, which was afforded a limited release across Europe and the United States in the spring. ‘Grayson Perry Plays Hide and Seek in York’ was a playful takeoff on the United Kingdom’s Museums at Night festival, held each and every May. ‘Clotted Hinderparts and Privy Drains: Game of Thrones and a History of Death on the Toilet’ used the season 4 finale of Game of Thrones – which aired in the middle of June – as the starting point for a history of privy-related death, taking in the heresiarch Arius, several European monarchs, the Sacco and Vanzetti judge Webster Thayer, and the architect Louis Kahn; and touching upon Ulysses, The Sopranos, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
At the beginning of September, spurred by Pitchfork, I declared my own list of ‘The Twenty-One Best Albums of the Decade So Far: 2010-2014’, headed by Joanna Newsom, Björk, and Grimes. The following month, I delighted in the announcement of the return of Twin Peaks – scheduled to reappear on television in 2016 after a twenty-five year absence. ‘Twin Peaks: Major Briggs’ Vision’ analysed a pivotal scene from the first episode of the second series of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s show, entitled ‘May the Giant Be With You’.
‘How To Dress Well @ St. Philip’s Church, Salford’ reviewed the Manchester show at the beginning of How To Dress Well’s latest European tour. On the back of What Is This Heart?, one of 2014’s strongest albums, Tom Krell performed accompanied by Aaron Read, on guitar; Larissa Loyva, on keyboards; and Drew Byrne, on drums. ‘Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2014 in Review’ described the international short film festival, now in its fourth year in York. 300 films were on show across fifteen venues and four days in early November. I offered my thoughts on the forty-two short films I saw – from documentaries to dramas to experimental works – over the course of the festival’s long weekend.
In photographs and words, ‘Umeå 2014 and Jokkmokk Winter Market’ travelled back to February and the north of Sweden. It depicted the inauguration of Umeå as a 2014 European Capital of Culture; before my partner and I visited the annual winter market which is held further north, in Jokkmokk, in the province of Lappland.
Rounding off the year, last week I published my list of ‘The Fifteen Best Albums of 2014’. Incorporating everything from the electronic music of Aphex Twin, to the rap and R&B of Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and Tink, to the contemporary jazz and classical compositions of Ambrose Akinmusire and Olga Bell, I pronounced Jolie Holland’s Wine Dark Sea the Culturedallroundman.com album of 2014.
In April, ‘WrestleMania XXX: New Stars Emerge as WrestleMania Triumphs’ reviewed wrestling’s premier event, which saw The Undertaker’s 21-0 undefeated streak end at the hands of Brock Lesnar; while Daniel Bryan overcame Randy Orton and Batista to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. ‘WWE Extreme Rules and the Booking of Bray Wyatt’ briefly captured WWE’s post-WrestleMania PPV, while questioning the booking and the uneven characterisation of Bray Wyatt.
‘The Premier League Now: Newcastle’s Plight, the Advantage Rule, and the Apotheosis of Ryan Giggs’ was written as the 2013-14 Premier League season drew to a close. Then on into the summer, Culturedallroundman.com became dominated by sport and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which took place in Brazil. ‘A Recapitulation of England’s Failings at the World Cup’ remarked upon the dismal World Cup campaign of the English national side, who departed from the group stages with a solitary point to their name. ‘The Quarter-Finals of Wimbledon and the World Cup’ suggested some tentative parallels between the summer’s football and the summer’s tennis.
‘Germany 1-0 Argentina: An Analysis of the 2014 World Cup Final’ provided a tactical overview as Germany lifted the World Cup. Two pieces – ‘What’s Wrong with Brazil? Evaluating the World Cup: Groups A-D’ and ‘Evaluating the World Cup: Groups E-H’ – summarised, group by group, the achievements and the future prospects of all thirty-two national sides on display in Brazil. And ‘Fashioning a World Cup Final: How the BBC Dressed’ saw a diversion towards the realm of menswear, as I discussed the suits and ties worn by BBC pundits Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer, and Rio Ferdinand.
‘The World Cup in Wider Culture’ placed the World Cup in a broad cultural perspective: looking at everything from local Brazilian politics to the tournament’s viewing figures, its technological engagements, and its songs and chants. As the summer wore on, focus shifted to the athletics, with ‘Athletics at the Commonwealth Games’ recapitulating the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; and ‘Highlights of the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich’ expounding some of the major achievements which characterised that event.
‘Who Wore It Best: Christine Ohuruogu vs. Serena Williams’ looked at women’s sportswear: specifically, animal print, and the fashion choices made by Christine Ohuruogu, running in the Great North CityGames, and Serena Williams, who took her eighteenth Grand Slam in winning the US Open. On into December, ‘Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea: Banks of Four Beat a Fluid Midfield’ proffered a tactical analysis of Newcastle’s victory over Chelsea. The match marked Chelsea’s first league defeat of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
And with that, on to 2015!