Not to be over-optimistic, though; 2003, as with all times, was a mix of good and bad.
a good year for: coffee shops When I was a student I had two aims in life; to have a choice about which pair of boots I'd put on in the morning, and to live somewhere I could always find a caff to hang out in. Oxford, 2003, is city of coffee shops in all different flavours; chain, literary, historical, internet-enabled, open late ... no matter which pair of boots I'm wearing, I should be able to find a table somewhere I can mark with a coffee cup then slump for a few hours reading, writing, drawing ... except at three in the morning. We still don't have 24hr cafes in this town. But that's OK. I don't really have time to hang out in coffee shops now, anyway. Don't wear my boots much nowadays, either.
a bad year for: spam asheville foulmouth clinic flesh cunning puccini ketosis labia mildew payroll screw your wife like a spice channel boy exogenous indecomposable bridegroom airline scat massive passive c@sh god conscious mimesis cryptographer bosom aspirant cigarettes give here penultimate embargo groundskeep continuity abstractor soulful clank a larger "stiffy" for ever guano acme draftsperson revisionary ellipsoidal dessert. If you know what I mean. I'm telling you, I never used to get spam before this year. Now every morning I fight my way to my inbox through a spammy fog.
a good year for: homosexuality While the news brought distress at the mealy-mouthed Anglican church, the atrocities of Sharia law, and growing vogue for including (male) rape as part of queerbashing, there was a lot to grin about, too; pride marches for the first time in India, Taiwan and Stoke-on-Trent, the queer invasion of reality TV and angry fags across the planet banding together to slap down the pro-family lobby in America. Between scandals rocking the church, MTV getting loopy over Britney/Madonna and the pants of a certain politician, the profile of the purest perversion has never been higher. On a personal note; yay! For flirty girls.
a bad year for: serial killers At the beginning of 2003, worried I was losing touch with reality, I resolved to read the news every day. My main discovery (apart from a faint disgust at how much column space is wasted on celebrities) was that serial killers do exist. I'd always thought of them as fictional, or at any rate, exaggerated. Not true. The murderers are out there. But to actually kill a lot of people, they need the collusion of the local authorities, through mistakes, for political reasons, or because the people being killed are not considered worthy of protection. This year (after pressure) China and America decided prostitutes and poor farmers were worth looking after; here's hoping 2004 brings similar results for the female factory workers of Ciudad Juarez.
a good year for: the ladies How many Ladyfests (and similar events) were there this year? I lost count, attended two, had my work shown at more, and met plenty of women, men and everything inbetween celebrating the delights and challenges of being, knowing and seeing ladies. But is the slightly alarming resurgence of knitting and sewing among many of my female friends belanced by a corresponding move towards independence and equality? As someone who works around teenagers (boys and girls) I've been stunned by sexism and inequality more than thrilled by female pride this year, and was tempted to dismiss the cliquey world of Ladyfest as feminist diversification for the already diverse ... were it not for the starry-eyed kids walking into the postered-up community halls as if they were entering the promised land; like zines, gay pride and Glastonbury, Ladyfest is offering somewhere to belong.
a bad year for: trees My mother came back from walking the streets of a village that had been drowned since 1935 to tell me that weather goes in cycles and it isn't changing; but this year the grass baked and blew away, flowers withered on the bushes and my cherry tree died through lack of water. All over the world, work to limit the damage done by extreme weather saves more and more lives; it was very satisfying to read about the efficient evacuation of nearly 20,000 villagers in Andhra Pradesh from the path of a winter cyclone, for example. But this was the same year the biggest polluters wriggled out of the Kyoto agreement and scientists revealed that planting more trees wouldn't help anyway. Some spectacular deaths from falling trees didn't help; but then, trees and humans have been at odds for a very long time. The UK is an almost completely deforested country. No, nobody cares for the woods any more.
a good year for: films Going out is the new staying in; but what to do? City centre pubs optimised for the most efficient production of bad-tempered drunks, clubs requiring energy levels unacheivable no matter how much Red Bull you consume, overpriced theatres full of nose-wrinkling pretentieuses watching grim-arsed Northern dramas ... not very appealing. Hurrah for the cinema; popcorn, shabby elegance and a comfy seat for a couple of hours. No need to socialise, but plenty to talk about after, if you want. Cheaper than boozing, and less likely to give you a hangover. The chance to be companiable without the exhaustion of conversation. And it's not just me thnking this; early this year I went to buy tickets at our biggest local screen for an arthouse flick about Virginia Woolf. It was sold out. Never thought I'd see the day ...
a bad year for: babies No matter where I went this year, from the wilds of Croyden to the far reaches of the Isle of Mull, I was greeted by babies. Drooling, gurgling, blinking and burbling like some new fashionable toy I can't understand. Arrival announced by text message, email and postcard, details gruesome elaborated and explained during the inevitable how-are-you-doing phone call. An indecent number of them were related to me; the new niece and nephew were not such a surprise, but a new baby brother? The babies themselves entered life nervously, mothers and mites yanked back into hospital for observation and antibiotics following scares and infections. Add a few more names to the list of those I wouldn't have were it not for the intervention of medical science.
a good year for: crowds doing strange things I get kind of nervous around other people (esp. half-known or entirely new) but crowds I like. Nodding crowds at dingy gigs, taped together by oh-hello and loud-loud music; anti-war protestors laying seige to Oxford castle mound, shouting, writing, upsetting the local tabloids; lazy lingery-talky crowds sitting and drinking/standing up and performing at fests and festivals, blurring the boundary between audience and artist; crowds of London sunbathers changing the meaning of art under the artificial sun in the Tate; shoppers defiant in the face of Christmas, dancing through excess, trailing chains of tiny children. Individually, fearsome; together, wonderful.
a bad year for: genocide Some still get away with it. The Rwandan trials, in particular, are rife with horror stories still. But this year there have been generals and other officials who sent entire populations to their doom being tried and convicted and (most importantly) judged as having done something which is absolutely wrong. Not allowable, because there was a war on, not somebody else's fault or problem, but just plain wrong. So many bad things are allowed to happen because we carefully left no-one in charge; we can all point to someone else and say; their fault, and that person in turn can say it for the next. Watching the buck stop and the hammer fall; and thinking towards a world where this dodging of reponsibility will seem as culpable as doing the bad thing itself, there's hope yet.
There are (some) bad things behind the cuts. I would rate them at a 15, with some scenes of real-life horror.