james debate
james debate

Sunday 27 December 2015

debbie debbies end of year awards 2015 best films music
Welcome once again to this most glamorous and esteemed of events. It's the definitive epilogue to a year gone by, considered by some to be greater than shark, tornado, and sharknado combined. It is of course The Ephemeric's famous annual tradition. Live from the Swiss Alps for some reason, It's The Debbie Awards: the year ends when we say it does.

So without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2015 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:

2015 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Mr. Robot
Runners Up: Fargo, Man in the High Castle

mr robot tv show USA

This year's most buzzed about TV show came seemingly out of nowhere, from the oft forgotten USA network. It's swept awards and earned widespread plaudits, and now Mr. Robot can add a Debbie to it's growing list of accolades. Mr. Robot's tale of cybercrime, social inequality and psychology could not be more timely, but it's the slick quality of production that stands out. Dazzling, thrilling, and pleasantly self-aware, this is the rare type of drama that makes everything else look lacklustre by comparison. The strongest start we've seen to a series since Lost.

Runner up prize goes to last year's winner Fargo. Different cast, different decade, same sharp writing. While these hit series come and go (see True Detective) in the blink of an eye, Fargo has proven itself to have real staying power, and remains one of the very best things on TV.

Lastly we give honourable mention to another new show, Man in the High Castle. The first major success from Amazon's original programming, Man in the High Castle is based on the Phillip K Dick novel of the same name. Set in 1960s America in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II, the show explores what a world under Nazi rule might have looked like, from the extrapolation of the party's hard line right wing ideology, to the complex cold war politics between a post-war German Reich and Japanese Empire, and focusing in particular on the inevitable resistance movement.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Mr Robot

Mr Robot tv show USA

Unsurprising that the best TV show of the year would also win best new show of the year. Mr. Robot really is that good. Season 2 duly approaches in 2016, and you would do well to ensure it's top of your list.

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: Steve Jobs
Runner Up: Ex Machina, The Martian

steve jobs fassbender danny boyle aaron sorkin film best 2015

Billed as a Social Network 2.0 due to the Aaron Sorkin script, this moniker does a disservice to the overall quality of Steve Jobs. Director Danny Boyle brings his trademark kinetic style and is once again on song, while Michael Fassbender puts in perhaps the best performance of the year. What really stands out is the unique film structure, focusing on just three key moments in Jobs' career and using them to illustrate the late Apple CEO as a man and as a tech innovator. Capturing an entire person, an entire life's worth of story in just three scenes leads to some starkly dream-like sequences, unlike any other biographical film you'll have seen. Steve Jobs is one of the most glowingly reviewed films of 2015, and yet it disappointed at the box office. Why the disconnect? Attribute that to the general public animosity towards Steve Jobs the person, the brand confusion caused by the cheap and crummy Ashton Kutcher movie two years ago, and all the behind the scenes drama, something that was only revealed during last year's massive Sony hack. It's a shame that this film will be so dwarfed by factors outside its control, because it is as brilliant as one would expect.

Indie film Ex Machina is the first of our runners up. A film that looks likely to fly under the radar of many of the Academy, it nevertheless remains one of the best received films of 2015 by critics and moviegoers alike. It takes an important contemporary issue like AI, adds in the impressive debut direction of veteran screenwriter Alex Garland, and a top cast that includes Oscar nominee Oscar Isaac, and the incredibly hot up and coming duo of Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. A truly excellent film that would be most deserving of the Debbie in another year.

Also worthy of note, but behind Steve Jobs and Ex Machina in the pecking order, The Martian has been one of the big Hollywood success stories of 2015. In many circles, Ridley Scott has recently been considered a bit past his prime, long overdue for a critically acclaimed hit, while Matt Damon has yet to convince the critics that he has what it takes to be anything other than a franchise movie star. With this movie they are both vindicated, and what we have is a smart, thrilling survival movie, one which is rightly being hailed alongside the other top movies of the year.

4. The Debbie for Talk Show Host of the Year 
Winner: John Oliver, Last Week Tonight
Runner Up: Stephen Colbert, The Late Show

john oliver last week tonight hbo talk show host of the year

The retirement of John Stewart has left a hole in television. America badly needs an intelligent and informative host to offset the Doocys and the Borgers of the media. Leading the charge in 2015 is Stewart's former charge John Oliver. Oliver was always a talented comedian from his Daily Show tenure, but now with the support and freedom that a network like HBO provides, he has taken his craft to a whole new level. Some of Oliver's work on Last Week Tonight has been revelatory. Oliver consistently picks important and complex issues, the kind that the rest of the media won't touch with a 6 foot pole, and tackles them with an energy and wit that has become trademark of his show. Oliver has long been seen as a second-string to the more famous Stewart and Colbert, but after a year on his own he is fast becoming the most important voice on television.

Oliver isn't the only one with a new show, Stephen Colbert has also this year taken over The Late Show from the outgoing David Letterman. Some of Colbert's work on his old show was up their with the very best political satire every created, most notably his work on SuperPACS, and his testimony before Congress on the issue of migrant labor. The good news is that Colbert's trademark intellect and unmatched showmanship have carried over to the new format well. The trouble is that on a major network like CBS, one often gets the impression that Colbert is having to reign in his edgier ideas and appeal to a broader audience. The jury is still out as to exactly how he will settle in this new role, but so far he still looks to be one of the best on TV.

5. The Debbie for Hollywood Rising Star of the Year 
Winner: Domhnall Gleeson

domhnall gleeson breakthrough star of the year

Every year has that one star, the one who all of a sudden goes from the c-list to being in absolutely everything. Previous years have included such actors as Chris Pratt, Ryan Gosling, and Benedict Cumberbatch. This year our pick for this esteemed prize goes to the young Brit Domhnall Gleeson.

Gleeson has in recent years has starred in the Richard Curtis movie About Time, the Harry Potter series, and the art-house flick Calvary. But this year has moved his career to a whole new level, with roles in no fewer than four of the year's biggest films: the critically acclaimed Ex Machina, the hotly tipped for awards duo of Brooklyn, and The Revenant, and also a little film called Star Wars. An astonishing cv for any actor, it's been a year to remember for the man.

Music & Theatre

6. The Debbie for Best Theatrical Production of the Year 
Winner: Hangman
Runner Up: Sleep No More

hangman wyndham mcdonagh best theatre 2015

This year all of London may have been abuzz about Cumberbatch's sold out production of Hamlet, but the real highlight in theatre has been the Royal Court's Hangman. Written by the twisted but brilliant Martin McDonagh, best known for writing and directing the films In Bruges and Seven Pyschopaths, as well as a host of other theatre productions. True to form, McDonagh's 1970s tale of a retired hangman running a pub is dark, uncomfortable, and absolutely hilarious, offering an exploration of male ego, teenage angst, and psychotic detachment, as well as a well thought out period analysis of England's transition to end capital punishment. Fans will recognise the style, the blend of menace and absurd humour. The balance here is about as perfect as it's ever been done. This is a play that really no one else could or would ever write, and one of the funniest things you'll see all year.

7. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: The Desired Effect - Brandon Flowers
Runner Up: Every Open Eye - Chvrches

desired effect brandon flowers best album 2015

A pleasant surprise and a return to form for The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers with his second solo LP after a few duff albums. The Desired Effect was a nearly perfectly honed pop-rock record, with some of the most irresistible tunes on the radio in 2015, including tracks like Lonely Town, and Still Want You. The Desired Effect is what happens when an undeniably gifted songwriter finds the right producer and strut their collective talent.

Our runner up goes to the highly impressive sophomore album from Scottish electro-rockers Chvrches, Every Open Eye. Chvrches burst onto the scene in 2013 as one of the hottest tipped new artists in Europe, with widespread coverage and acclaim. Their debut was solid, and the follow up takes them one step closer to realising that potential. Every Open Eye is slicker, bolder and just a much tighter album. While it's hard to pick stand out tracks from such a solid album, Never Ending Circles, Clearest Blue, and Empty Threat seem to be the key singles to look out for. They have gone from fairly interesting hype band to genuinely solid headline act, we look forward to what the future holds.

8. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: In Colour - Jamie xx
Runner Up: Goon - Tobias Jesso Jr

in colour jamie xx goon tobias jesso best debut album 2015

In an impressive year for debut albums, In Colour, the debut studio album from Jamie xx, stands out. Jamie xx is better known as one half of the Mercury Prize winning band The xx, and fans of theirs will feel right at home with his solo debutWidely acclaimed by critics everywhere as one of the best albums of the year, it is indeed very deserving of the praise it has received. Jamie xx has a real flair for understated complexity, and with In Colour he has crafted a wonderful, and rich collection of tracks. A slow burner, we predict this is going to be one of those albums that hangs around for a few years yet. In the mean time go and enjoy the key track, Loud Places.

Elsewhere we have Goon from Tobias Jesso Jr, an album which has become by some pundits' reckoning the 2015 soundtrack for heartbreak. There's no gimmick here, and nothing too audacious, just 12 smooth songs with a vintage aesthetic. In particular the tracks Hollywood and How Could you Babe are standouts.

9. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: Lifted Up (1985) - Passion Pit
Runners Up: Lonely Town - Brandon Flowers, Loud Places - Jamie xx

passion pit lifted up best song 2015

We have had some excellent songs this year from which to choose, and while Passion Pit's new album Kindred may have disappointed, its lead single Lifted Up (1985) did not. Lifted Up is a balls to the wall uplifting good-times song in the classic Passion Pit mould, deliciously over the top, and incessantly catchy. Frisson all around, this is an absolutely top song that will get the room jumping.

First runner up is our pick from Brandon Flowers' album of the year winning The Desired Effect, Lonely Town. A spiritual successor of sorts to Sting's Every Breath You Take ode to stalkers, Lonely Town is the catchiest song that has been released all year, with that toe-tapping, get stuck in your head quality that few can match. Pure pop gold.

And finally Loud Places, the impressive single from Jamie xx's debut solo LP In Colour. Soulful, inventive, and the track most reminiscent of the xx, Loud Places is a glorious track worth listening to on repeat for a while.

10. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year 
Winner: Passion Pit

passion pit best live performer 2015

Passion Pit is always good. Passion Pit live is even better though. The band is known for its euphoric choruses and high energy, but experiencing it live is a whole other proposition. The energy is palpable, the music feels as though you could reach out and touch it. It is a few hours of pure euphoria.

Videogames & Technology

11. The Debbie for Greatest Technological Innovation of the Year 
Winner: Net Neutrality

net neutrality greatest technological innovation 2015

At last year's Debbie Awards we raised the issue of Net Neutrality as our cause of the year. It may seem an unusual choice with all the strife and worthy charitable causes in the world, but Net Neutrality is one of those deceptively crucial issues, one that effects everyone even when most people will have no idea what it actually means. The internet has been one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of mankind, and yet we have barely even scratched its potential.

The internet has the capacity to provide endless and instant information to every person in the world, this gives it the potential to be a singularly important device for education, to say nothing of its promise as a tool for driving awareness and social change. The key to realising this potential is to keep the internet unbiased and equal, not giving anyone control over the content or prioritising one piece of content over another. The moment you start doing that you open the door to propagandising. This year the FCC reclassified the internet as a title II (common carrier) telecommunications service, which guarantees net neutrality in the United States. It's flown under the radar for a lot of people, but in the long term this may be the single most significant action of the Obama administration.

12. The Debbie for Greatest Scientific Discovery of the Year 
Winner: Liquid water, everywhere

liquid water space mars europa enceladus titan ganymede discovery 2015

The Universe is a desolate, empty place, full of dust and ice. Only the jewel of the Solar System, Earth, is different, with its water, climate, and life. Or is it? Until now, the guiding principle of all exobiology has been the search for liquid water. Everywhere we have found liquid water so far, we have found life. Now, for the first time, we have definitive proof of liquid water somewhere other than Earth. Liquid, albeit highly salinated, water is now known to exist on the surface of Mars, with potentially even more under the surface.

But that's not all! In the same year, we have confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that there is liquid water under the icy surfaces of Jovian moon Europa, and the Saturnian moon Enceladus. Add to this the fact that we are pretty damn certain that Ganymede, Callisto and Titan also have water, and several other bodies may also do so, and suddenly our entire view of the universe has been transformed. Liquid water is not a rarity, it is common. Everywhere we have found liquid water until now, we have found life.

13. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: Kerbal Space Program
Runners Up: Fallout 4

kerbal space program game of the year 2015

It has been a big year for gaming. We've seen some huge AAA releases, and big money mega-hits. Yet our pick for the winner of this grand prize goes to the indie darling, Kerbal Space Program. A deceptively complex simulator of realistic space travel mechanics wrapped in a cute shell and a competent management game to boot, KSP is a game you can lose countless hours to. It's a triumph for such a small development team to produce such a tight and enjoyable product, and the greatest vindication we have yet seen that the crowdfunding early-access model can really work.

Our runner up choice may come with some controversy. Fallout 4 is an undeniably excellent videogame, and the biggest release of 2015 in terms of both hype and sales. It comes with more than its share of bugs, and is held back from true greatness by poor design choices, a probelm entirely of its own making, but this is nevertheless one of the essential games of 2015.

14. The Debbie for Videogame Console of the Year
Winner: PC

pc best console for gaming pcmasterrace

For all the competition between Microsoft and Sony, and to a lesser extent Nintendo, PC gaming has been making a quiet resurgence. In recent years the vogue has been for developers to focus on the consoles, you can charge more for games, the infrastructure for paid add-ons is well developed, and crucially since every console is the exact same design, you only need to design your game to run on one piece of hardware. But PC gaming has its own advantages, flexibility, customisation, better control options, and of course the wonderful Steam platform. In 2015 the winds seem to have changed back towards the PC, with several of the year's biggest releases, including our two game of the year contenders, releasing on PC, and a new raft of developers deciding to focus solely on the PC platform, particularly in the indie and Kickstarter scene. With the advent of the new Steam Machines, the use of this platform for gaming will increase further, so we expect this trend to continue.

15. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Uber
Runner Up: Alphabet

Uber company of the year 2015

They've been all over the news this year, and not always for the right reasons, but there is no denying that Uber are one of the most disruptive companies in the world today. The potential for cheap and convenient transport, available to everyone, at any time, in any place, will revolutionise city life, and even more so as prices continue to decrease. In London right now, Uber taxis are still relatively expensive, albeit cheaper than any competitor. In other cities a single ride can be as cheap as a few pounds. But that's just the start. Going forward, the stated goal for Uber is ultimately to transition to driverless cars. When that happens, with no driver salaries, benefits or related recruiting and administrative costs, the price for an uber taxi will crash to the point where it is practically negligible. At those prices, what justification is there for ever not using Uber to go somewhere? The potential ramifications are huge.

In a similar vein, we have Alphabet, the newly rebranded parent company for Google, and all associated Google companies. Alphabet/Google have always been on the cutting edge of technology, in particular the research-oriented Google X branch. Now we are at the point where some of the company's loftier ideas are coming to fruition, and the sheer breadth of their operations is staggering. For starters there's the driverless car tech they are in the process of testing, the very technology that Uber are likely to use. Then there is Project Loon, due to launch shortly, which will use a network of high altitude balloons of all things to provide uncensored internet access to the world, particularly those in repressed autocratic nations. Project Sunroof has the lofty goal of making roof solar panels mainstream, easily available and convenient to install anywhere in the country. Last but not least there's Calico, a company with the no less lofty ambition of significant life extension. Alphabet has their finger in a lot of pies, all with astonishing ambitions and the massive financial heft of Google. This can only be a massively good thing for humanity, so why is this only second on their list? Uber represents an active, existing business. These Alphabet ideas, incredible though they may be, are still just ideas. Stay tuned over the coming years and we'll see which of these come to fruition.

16. The Debbie for Small Company of the Year
Winner: Gilead Sciences
Runner Up: Organovo

gilead sciences best small company

This year we're going for something a little bit different with Gilead Sciences. Not a household name like some of the other companies we've discussed on this blog, but one that looks set to be equally significant. The pharmaceutical company's growth over the past 10 years has been staggering and earned such hyperbolic praise as "the Apple of pharmaceuticals". Over the top gushing aside, Gilead is indeed an up-and-comer, and while right now is heavily focused on the hepatitis market, is set to branch into many huge areas of research from oncology and liver disease to rheumatoid arthritis and HIV/AIDS. Gilead has shown its ability to identify, acquire, and market drugs as second to none, this will be a very big player in pharmaceuticals indeed.

Our runner up stays in the biomedical field. Organovo has got to be one of the most unique and potentially groundbreaking ideas in the field today. Essentially, the idea is to combine the burgeoning field of 3D printing with medicine, 3D printed cells. Currently the company is close to being able to print actual functioning human tissue. That in itself is a remarkable achievement. The next logical step after that is printing whole organs. The potential significance of such a breakthrough needs no further elaboration, it would change the world to be able to print even the more simple organs, let alone vital systems. One to keep an eye on over the coming years.

17. The Debbie for Gadget of the Year
Winner: Apple Watch

apple watch 2015

Wearable technology is the big thing in gadgets right now. Apple is one of the world's biggest tech companies. It's about time they got involved in this growing field. Their addition to the market is the Apple Watch. This is far from the first smartwatch to be released, there are already several Android alternatives available, but as one would expect from Apple they manage to find that little bit extra quality to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. The physical design is clever for a start, intuitive to control despite the obvious limitations in size, and the ability to easily switch watch bands is nothing short of brilliant. The fitness and exercise features make another nice addition for those who have not yet invested in an Up3 or Fitbit. The cherry on top is the addition of Apple Pay features. You can use this watch as a credit card, oyster card, airplane boarding pass, cinema ticket, and just about anything else that's scannable. This is technology that allows you to control an increasing amount of your life from a tiny device on your wrist, and that's pretty remarkable.

18. The Debbie for Subreddit of the Year
Winner: /r/BatmanAdvice

best subreddit batman advice

Reddit at it's best can be a place of real insight, performing great service to the goal of free exchange of information, whilst offering the pinnacle of crowdsourced wisdom, and crucially featuring highly specified subreddits to cater to every interest or hobby. If ever there was one single website that could handle every need on the internet, it's Reddit.

This year for our all new subreddit of the year Debbie we're looking to the other side of Reddit, the users' penchant for the silly and surreal. In the past year the best of these has been /r/BatmanAdvice, an alternate take on the popular legal advice sub, this time imparting wisdom on the best way to Batman. Includes such pearls of wisdom as dress for the job you want, and how to choose your Batman name. However, and important disclaimer as stated on the subreddit sidebar: "A place to ask for advice on being Batman. Any advice here will NOT make you into the actual Batman. Reddit is not a substitute for a real Batman".


19. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Lionel Messi - Barcelona

lionel messi barcelona best footballer player in the world football

It might seem like a way too obvious choice, but there's a reason for that. Lionel Messi is the best footballer in the world right now, and this season has seen him back at his best, and heads and shoulders above the rest.

His record in the past year has been incredible, 58 goals last season being his third highest ever tally in a season that saw his Barcelona team claim both the league title and Champions League. The good form has continued into the current season, as the team sits pretty at the top of the table once again, largely a result of this man's form.

20. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Angel Correa - Atletico Madrid

angel correa atletico madrid argentina best young footballer player in the world

Picking one player as the next big thing is a near impossible task, but The Ephemeric prides itself on having a pretty solid prediction record. This year the exciting young talent to catch our eye is Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa. The 20 year old Argentinian forward has been out of the game for a year due to health concerns, but despite that has come back and immediately become a key influential player in this impressive Atletico side. Correa's speed and skill makes him a deadly opponent for even the best of the defences, and if he can stay healthy then he can become one of the best players in Europe without question, and an important player at both the club and international level.

21. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Luis Enrique - Barcelona

best football manager in the world 2015 luis enrique barcelona

It's been a year of struggle for some of the world's best managers. Ancelotti won la decima, only to be sacked a year later. Mourinho won a league and cup double, only to be sacked 7 months later. Klopp was out of a job, and only just restarted his career with Liverpool, and of course Pep is Pep, master at the art of underperforming with the best team in the world. Really this year the award has to go to Luis Enrique by default, and it's hard to suggest he doesn't deserve it. A league and Champions League double, plus seemingly on course for another title this year. Enrique has firmly reestablished Barcelona as the best team in the world after Pep's dire last few seasons, and certainly has earned this cherished prize.

Current Events

22. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Barack Obama
Runners up: Hilary Benn

president obama politician of the year

Alright, bring it on you lot. It's always popular to bash on the sitting President, especially during his lame duck years. We almost didn't go for him, but frankly with objective analysis of the past 12 months it became impossible to deny that 2015 was a very good year for Barack Obama indeed, one filled with a succession of strong accomplishments. It may not be the popular thing to say, but it is undeniably true. Obama's 2015 has included his administration's successful arguing at the Supreme Court that resulted in the legalisation of same sex marriage nationwide, realising finally the dream of marriage equality. It has included the institution of strong Net Neutrality laws, ensuring the validity and equality of history's greatest education and information tool. It has included the Paris climate accord, currently being hailed as a watershed moment in the fight against man-made climate change. These three historic accomplishments already top anything ever accomplished by the previous President, and probably any for decades, let alone in a single year.

Our runner up is the British Labour MP and probably future party leader Hilary Benn. Anyone who knows The Ephemeric will know that we are no friend of the Labour party, in fact we have a strong disagreement with the majority of their policies. This year Benn had a moment, a moment where he stood up to his party's fanatical leadership and did what he believed was right, arguing in favour of increased military action against ISIS in Syria. The speech went viral, considered by many to be one of the finest speeches on the floor of Commons of all time. Benn is an example of how politicians should really be, saying what needs to be said and doing what is right in spite of the political consequences. We give Benn this accolade as recognition for his bravery.

23. The Debbie for Political Scandal of the Year 
Winners: Ben Carson has problems with reality

ben carson lies crazy scandal

This one's just hilarious. Ben Carson came onto the scene as a popular conservative figure, and used his outsider position to become one of the top polling candidates in the GOP primary. Then something happened, Ben Carson happened. It started off with a claim that Carson had attempted to murder a friend as a teenager. He described himself as an angry person, "consumed by rage" who, and I'm not making this up, has to pray in order to control his urges. Yes, a Presidential candidate went on record as describing himself as a violent deviant, who needs the solace of an imaginary friend in order to control his tendencies. Just the kind of guy you want to have his finger on the nukes.

But that's not the ridiculous part. The ridiculous part is that this was all a lie. Yes, a Presidential candidate lied and pretended to be a violent deviant, who needs religion to prevent himself from destroying the world in nuclear fire. I just... don't even. But that's not all! After this somewhat bizarre lie, all the crazy started pouring out. Whether it's Ben Carson pretending that he got offered a scholarship to West Point, or Ben Carson pretending that he attended a class in Yale that it turns out never even existed... this... this is the guy who was for a while top of the polls in America. Seriously guys WTF?

24. The Debbie for Cause of the Year 
Winner: Humanitarian crises in the Middle East

middle east humanitarian crisis most important issue 2015

There is a lot of awful stuff going on in the world. This is not a secret to anyone anymore. But this knowledge doesn't do justice to just how horrific the violence being perpetuated in certain parts of the world really is. We all lose our shit when a bomb goes off in Boston and 3 people die, while in places in North Africa and the Middle East you have attacks that claim the lives of hundreds in a single day with alarming regularity. Even that only scratches the surface; there are millions suffering as a result of the civil war in Syria and the ongoing conflict in Iraq, 4 million refugees at the last count.

Now humans are notoriously bad at tangibly picturing large numbers. We can sense that there is a big difference between 1 and 10, or even 1 and 100, but when you start talking about the millions, we are very bad at conceptualising just how much that is. So here is a pictorial representation of a million. You see how that big square is made up of smaller squares, and each of those smaller squares made up of even smaller squares? Well if you zoom in you will see that each of those even smaller squares is made up of even even smaller squares, and there are a million of those in this image, and that's a lot. There are four times that many refugees from Syria alone. Clearly it's a tragedy when a handful of people are affected by terrorism in the West, but compared to this, well that's a level of human suffering that simply has not been seen since World War II.

25. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: Bill Gates

bill gates person of the year 2015

Our 2015 Person of the Year, Bill Gates serves as a great example of how much a person's image can change over time. When I was growing up, the reputation of Gates was far from flattering; an unethical, monopolising, tyrant, constantly in the courts over antitrust suits and ruthlessly crushing the little guy in competing start ups. There were whole movies based on this.

In 2015 Gates has reinvented himself as a towering figure in philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the wealthiest charity in the world, and one of the most prominent forces for good. Huge resources have been devoted to such causes as malaria, clean water in third world countries, clean energy, and other agricultural and healthcare initiatives. Gates also recently announced the creation of a historic multi-billion dollar fund for clean energy R&D. He has previously declared that the majority of his fortune will go to charity. There are few people in the world who are doing as much good as Bill Gates, and even fewer who have the means and reach to actually bring it to fruition.

Social & Lifestyle

26. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Coya
Runner Up: The Ledbury

coya london best restaurant 2015

London is fast turning into one of the foodie capitals of the world, blessed with some of the hottest and most acclaimed restaurants anywhere. Our pick of the bunch for 2015 is Peruvian restaurant Coya. The Green Park establishment specialises in char-grill, ceviche, and other Latin American classics. But it really is difficult to convey just how good the food is until you try it for yourself. The lomo de res beef skewer melts in your mouth, the patatas bravas is finger-licking good, but the undoubted highlight has to be the arroz nikkei seabass with rice, a dish that simply needs to be tasted to be believed.

Our runner up is a restaurant generally considered to be one of the top one or two in all of London, The Ledbury. Let's be clear, it may have lost out to Coya this year, but really when you're talking about restaurants of this calibre there isn't much between them. The Ledbury is a very different sort of restaurant of course, two michelin star, multi-course tasting menus (although they do offer a la carte as well). But the Ledbury stands out not for its pomp and accolades, but because its food is absolutely excellent. Every single dish, excellent, no matter what it is. See something on the menu that you don't think you would ever eat? You'll like it, trust me.

27. The Debbie for New Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Taberna do Mercado

taberna do mercado chiltern firehouse kitty fishers nuno mendes best new restaurant london

Chef Nuno Mendes was all the buzz in London last year when he launched the Chiltern Firehouse, which quickly became the hottest restaurant in the city. Its celebrity was well deserved, but Mendes may already have outdone himself with his newest creation, Taberna do Mercado. In complete contrast to the grandiose Chiltern Firehouse, Taberna is a tiny, unassuming place, in the most unassuming of locations near Liverpool Street, you could honestly be forgiven for walking by and thinking nothing of it.

The menu itself is also the complete opposite of the creative, themed dishes at Chiltern. On the surface it appears to be mostly just small sharing plates of meat, cheese and various homemade breads, with some fish and veggies thrown in for good measure. Once you try it, you realise that Nuno is just as intricate and innovative as ever. Whether it's in the preparation or treatment, the unusual combination of simple ingredients, this is delicious, well sourced food that's greater than the sum of its parts. We most highly recommend the outrageous sandwiches.

28. The Debbie for Nightclub/Bar of the Year 
Winner: The Holly Bush

holly bush pub hampstead best bar club london 2015

The temptation when considering this award is to think of the trendy speakeasies, the wild clubs, the quirky new bars, but this year we are just going with a classic English pub, The Holly Bush. There's a marked difference between the city pub and the country pub. Your typical city pub leans more towards just being a regular bar, tries hard to be trendy, uptight management. A country pub is a relaxing place, friendly to all, usually has a dog running around somewhere and board games to play. A friendly local. The Holly Bush manages to hang on to that old fashioned country feel despite being located in London. Part of that is down to the more secluded location up in the suburbs of Hampstead, but the atmosphere, the service, and the extras are all spot on for that right pub feel. The Holly Bush is currently undergoing refurbishment, so we shall see if it maintains its charm, but for now it's a lovely spot.

29. The Debbie for Mixologist of the Year 
Winner: Alessandro Palazzi

alessandro palazzi dukes bar best mixologist

Another Debbie for... guess who? The Duke's Bar owner Alessandro is famous across London for making Ian Fleming's drinks, and in particular his flair for unique martinis turn heads. Whether he's making his signature Fleming 89 or whipping up some original creation on the spot, there's no finer cocktail around. This year's special creations include the coffee flavoured Oracabesa martini.

30. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: New York, USA

new york usa best holiday destination 2015

This year's destination of choice is New York, USA. If you're going to visit a city, you might as well make it the biggest in the world. Too obvious? Perhaps, but there's a reason why it's the world's most popular tourist destination, from the wall-to-wall landmarks, the shopping, the gorgeous central park, to the world class restaurants, nightlife, and theatre. Now even the formerly undeveloped areas, the industrial, warehouse districts, have all been turned into wonderfully trendy neighbourhoods bristling with new developments like the Highline. Still one of the best ways to spend a week.

31. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Haiku 2009

haiku 2009 castello di ama

Patrons are unanimous, the Castello di Ama vineyard is consistently among the very best in Tuscany, and this year we bestow our most coveted award in wine to their Haiku 2009 vintage. Elegant and delicately fruity, this wine is a 50% sangiovese and 50% equal parts cabernet franc and merlot. A smooth drinking wine, very fine to drink now, but can also keep cellared for another 3-4 years.

32. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year 
Winner: Nyetimber blanc de blancs 2007

best champagne 2015 nyetimber blanc de blancs

Whisper it quietly, but the English sparkling wines are starting to develop a name for themselves. Thanks to global warming, the English climate is becoming increasingly favourable to the traditional grapes of the Champagne region, to the point where many are declaring southern England as the future of sparkling wine in Europe. It is now becoming commonplace for the top English wines to win blind tastings against even the biggest names of Champagne, and in that regard no English wine is more celebrated than Nyetimber. Nyetimber operate a vineyard on a par with any other in the world. Specialising entirely in sparkling wine, their classic cuvée is award winning. However our pick from the bunch is the Nyetimber blanc de blancs. 100% chardonnay as all blanc de blancs are, this is a supremely crisp and memorable sparkling wine, and a fine choice for any festive meal. Drink well, drink British my friends.

Well there you have it. 2015 will go down as a troubled year for sure, but here's to the next one being better!

Thursday 17 December 2015

jose mourinho chelsea sacked emenalo idiots
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results" - someone who wasn't really Albert Einstein, but everyone attributes it to him anyway.

Chelsea football club have just sacked the most successful manager in the club's history, Jose Mourinho, for the second time. the result last time they did this was a slip from being one of Europe's top clubs to 8 years with only one league title. Bringing him back, within two seasons he had returned the title to Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho is not only Chelsea's most successful manager of all time, he is also the most successful manager in the world over the past 10 years, with the most major silverware of any single manager, attained at a variety of different clubs and leagues to boot. Chelsea football club have determined that the best manager in their history, and in the world for the past 10 years apparently isn't allowed to have one bad season.

The real issue, of course, has been the players. Awful transfer policy by the club honchos, and poor attitudes on and off the pitch of the players themselves. Now these same failures are covering their ass by putting the blame on the one competent person in the club's management. The players should be ashamed of themselves, and the club directors aren't fit to run a Tescos. If Juande Ramos comes to the club I'm going to have a god damn stroke, and I hate everything.

The Ephemeric politely submits into consideration that the Chelsea boardroom eat a whole bag of dicks.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Developed by Bethesda Game Studios
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Genre Action RPG
Platform PC, Xbone, PS4

fallout 4 videogame review 1.0 steam early access

Few events in the gaming calendar have the hype of a new Bethesda game, especially when that game is the long-awaited next installment in the celebrated Fallout franchise. It's been five years of secretive development and back-room wrangling over the ownership of the IP, but finally, we have Fallout 4 in our mittens.

Great credit needs to be given to the manner in which Bethesda have orchestrated this release, keeping perfect secrecy for many years, and then promptly releasing barely a few months after the initial announcement. Fallout 4 was the talk of this year's E3 festival, and now it releases in the height of fever pitch. Many developers could learn from this example.

Fallout's concept is perhaps one of the most unique ever developed; a darkly comedic satire on post-war American 1950s pop-culture/propaganda and its optimistic view of the "wonders of the atomic age". Fallout ironically imagines a world where all the atomic powered flying cars, robot butlers, and other promises came true, but so did the less tantalizing aspect of atomic power, nuclear war. The Fallout series sees players exploring a crumbling nuclear wasteland, full of camp sci-fi/retro aesthetic, thick Americana, and gallows humour.

Before we begin, The Ephemeric would like to take a moment to uncharacteristically pat itself on the back for calling this one at the start of the year, before this game had even been confirmed to exist. We were right, and Fallout 4 has landed. Does it live up to the hype?

Starting life in the 1990s as a top-down RPG, Bethesda reinvented the series as a first person RPG in the mould of their Elder Scrolls franchise and haven't looked back. The core gameplay components of the typical Bethesda RPG are combat, crafting, exploration, and conversation. In Fallout 4, each of these components have been hugely overhauled.

Old Bethesda games were clearly an RPG first, with little care seemingly paid towards honing the shooting and melee combat side of the game. Fallout as a series has the unique combination of real time and turn-based combat modes. The bulk of the gameplay takes place in real time, but when in combat players have the (useful, but completely optional) VATS ability to freeze gameplay and select specific targets to attack, which the game will then do autonomously until the moves have been exhausted.

In Fallout 4 the shooting has been massively improved. There is no single thing that stands out significantly different, it just looks and feels better overall. The weapons have real weight and recoil to them, enemies actually react to being hit, Fallout 4 would actually be a very competent shooting game. Melee has also been improved with a series of perks designed to add extra flourish and extravagance to what you can do with, for example, a baseball bat. In the meantime VATS has been tweaked such that it no longer fully pauses the game while you plan your attack, merely slowing it down, further shifting the combat gameplay into real time.

In previous Fallout games you had some small recipes you could use to craft items or food, and certain pre-made modifications you could add to a weapon, like adding a silencer or a better sniper scope. In Fallout 4 item crafting returns, and every single gun is entirely modular, made up of components like stock, barrel, magazine, scope, etc which can all be crafted in the same way. Every one of these can be mixed and matched to create truly personal and unique weapons, and the sheer quantity of options and combinations is quite staggering.

Armor modification has pretty much the exact same system, with the exception of power armor. Previously, power armor was essentially just an overpowered version of regular armor. You equipped it in the same way, and functionally it behaved the same, only better. Not so in Fallout 4. Power armor in this game behaves more like a vehicle. It is a persistent object in the game world that you enter and exit, and when you exit you park it at power armor stations. More cumbersome than before, but the trade off is that power armor is now even more overpowered than before. The gulf between regular and power armor has never felt so tactile in game, and when you don your suit this time, you truly feel invincible. And of course, power armor can be fully customised as well.

But the biggest addition to crafting is the new "settlement" system. The world is full of individual settlements dotted around the map; usually small groups of civilians, farms, hideouts, or empty plots of land. As you complete missions and explore, you unlock more of these settlement sites. Once unlocked, you can build on them, and we don't mean you can plop down a few pre-made huts or beds to sleep on, this is a full-on first person town building mode. From a series of floor, wall and roof tiles you can design buildings of nearly any size, pretty much in any way you can imagine. Want to build a few modest townhouses? A giant citadel fortress with crazy turrets, bridges and tunnels? A sprawling market? You can build pretty much anything you can imagine.

But that's not all. You can furnish these buildings with an array of furniture types, all of which are functional rather than merely decorative. You can plant crops for food and develop infrastructure for power and water. Once built and furnished, settlers will move into your settlements. You can equip them with weapons, clothes, assign them to jobs, even establish trade routes with your other settlements. Certain special settlers can even be recruited from your exploration out in the game world.

It's remarkable how much depth they've put into this feature, and how well integrated it is to the core game. A good 20 hours in, and The Ephemeric had barely even dented the main part of the game such was the substance of this settlement building subgame. Hours later, and we have ourselves a whole network of burgeoning towns, some of which are dedicated farms, some are huge military fortresses, and some are just friendly towns complete with shops. It's like a whole separate strategy game has been attached to the core Fallout experience, and it's amazing.

Exploration has mostly stayed true to the Bethesda style, which is just as well seeing as it has been one of the franchise's main attractions. The world is big and packed with things to do; minigames, quests, collectibles, interesting characters, Easter eggs, and simply miscellaneous unmarked detail intended to add life and flesh out the world they have created. Fallout 4's commonwealth is at least an equal to any other world they have created, and as with previous entries in the series, hours of entertainment can be had simply by wandering around.

The major addition, which brilliantly ties together exploration with the new settlement and crafting gameplay, is that everything, from the buildings to the furniture to the weapon and armor modifications, can be built by you from scratch. To do this all you need to do is collect building materials. In older Fallout games, the world was littered with junk: bits of metal, old appliances, scrap rubber and circuitry, and it was all completely useless. Fallout 4's masterstroke is using all these random bits of junk as building materials, making them not only useful, but essential. For the first time, you actually have a reason to scavenge the wasteland for scrap, and that makes the setting feel more real and convincing then it ever has before.

The general RPG elements of Fallout have been largely overhauled as well. Gone is the old skill point system, opting instead for one made almost entirely out of discrete "perks". So instead of assigning points to medicine or speech, you instead choose perks which grant you additional abilities in those fields. Despite this, skill-books reappear. Only now instead of bestowing a boost to skill points, they offer perks, or permanent ability boosts. A pleasantly creative twist also sees magazines unlocking new content, for example games to play on your pip-boy, new furniture for your settlements, new hairstyles, paintjobs for your armor, etc.

Then we come to the overhaul of the conversation system, and things turn decidedly more sour. For the first time, Bethesda have opted for a more cinematic, Mass Effect-style, system. This means that conversations no longer take place in first person perspective, but through cinematic cutscenes, and it also means that for the first time your character is actually voiced, rather than simply text. The Epehemeric was mostly fine with these changes..

Slightly more troubling is how the player chooses dialogue options. Previously the player would have the full text of their response in front of them, and choose as they wish. Now the player sees a one or two word paraphrasing, Mass Effect-style, and needs to guess which one most closely resembles what they actually want to say.

Worse still is the complete detachment between dialogue and the character decisions you have made previously. In Fallout New Vegas you would have special dialogue options that you could only use if you had made certain decisions previously, or if you had attained the appropriate level of skill in a particular subject. As an example, if you have a high medicine skill, you would get special medical dialogue to demonstrate that fact in game, which might even help you complete your quest.

In other words, the world around you would actually react and reflect your own personal decisions, whether that means befriending an old prospector with your knowledge of explosives, using your high barter skill to get a better deal, or using your "intimidate" perk to simply scare off the enemy. Very little of this is in Fallout 4 outside of a few specific scripted moments, and it really is a disappointment because the lack of dialogue nuance means your decisions, and the specific experiences of your character become largely meaningless and outside the main quest have little effect in the game.

The loss here is one of player agency. Usually when you play a videogame, you have to choose one of a few pre-determined paths, and those potential decisions do not always mirror what the player is actually feeling. One of the greatest design elements of Fallout 3 and New Vegas was the freedom and autonomy offered to the player to behave and react to situations in a way that felt natural and true.  Previously the main character was essentially a vehicle for the player's own volition, now there is that extra level of detachment between what the player wants and the character does. The player now no longer feels as though they actually are the character, but merely that they are watching the character like a movie. It's an immersion breaker and a real step back for the series.

It's not all a disaster though. Companions in the game have been hugely improved from old entries to the series. For the first time, Fallout has actual romance options, and a full friendship system between player and companion, complete with its own perks and bonuses, not to mention a few unique quests. These companions typically have a far greater sense of personality than what we have seen previously, and go a long way towards bringing the player back into the game world after being pushed away by the other points above.

There are also some other clever little touches, like dialogue changes depending on whether your character is drunk or on drugs, interjections whenever you skip dialogue, and though the quality of writing itself is generally inconsistent, there are still some very well written lines here and there.

One final criticism needs to be made about the quests in the game. The main story quests are fine, and the faction system, though not as well thought out as in New Vegas, is still pretty compelling. The side quests, however, are a disappointment. For starters there are surprisingly few, barely a third of the number in Skyrim. Most of these are pretty tedious and lacking in creativity as well; simple fetch quests or, even worse, "go here and kill a bunch of people" quests. What made old Fallout games great was the variety in quest gameplay, less dependent on violence and action, more on good story telling and clever design.

For comparison have a look at the endgame of New Vegas, which gave you the (optional) potential to form alliances, make deals, and generally outsmart and influence everyone to put yourself in a more advantageous position without even firing a shot. One of the most satisfying endings involved double crossing both main factions as a result of careful groundwork being laid throughout the story. Or the confrontation with your initial antagonist Benny, which gave you several options for how to get your revenge, from plain violence to manipulation and film-noir intrigue. This sort of clever interplay between factions peaks its head out once or twice in Fallout 4, but not enough, and never convincingly.

You could, of course, still go the soldier route and just go guns blazing on everyone, but New Vegas at least gave you the option of using more nuance. This more intricate and clever form of story telling is at the heart of the Fallout series and one of the main ties to the hardboiled mid 20th Century cold war aesthetic. So it is legitimately disappointing to see Bethesda ostensibly trying to turn Fallout into retro Call of Duty.

Then there are the bugs. As with every Bethesda RPG, Fallout 4 is plagued by bugs. These includes simple performance issues; for example a lot of players have reported severe lag in dense areas due to the way the game draws shadows. Others have had serious glitches associated with the rendering of "god rays". Both of these can be largely fixed by simple ini file edits, which begs the question why the game appears to have been so poorly optimised. Hopefully this will be mostly sorted in future patches.

Then there are the more extravagant bugs. Most of the ones that we have seen are related to the new settlement system which, ambitious and substantial though it is, is rough enough around the edges that one suspects it was a late addition to the game, with poor interface design and glitches. For example there is a common bug which causes settlement happiness to plunge which somehow appears to be related to placing TVs in your settlement. Even more irritating is the propensity for miscellaneous decorative objects to inexplicably sink through furniture and floors when you reload your settlement, which currently can only be avoided by placing these objects in a very round-about, burdensome fashion.

And of course the miscellaneous bugs: AI glitching out, people's appendages turning invisible, poor NPC pathfinding, invisible Pip-Boy, and random freezes and crashes (though to the game's credit these are much less frequent than with New Vegas).

We have raised a lot of negatives in this review, so its a testament to Fallout that despite the obvious flaws we have described, Fallout 4 is still one of the finest games we've played in a while, into which we will easily sink 100 hours. For all the unwise design decisions that have been made, the end product is still undeniably one that has been crafted with love and skill.

Gameplay has been drastically improved in almost every way. There are a myriad of new and fleshed out features like settlement management, building and far deeper crafting, and a lot of creative new details to existing mechanics which really bring the game to life. What holds Fallout 4 back from true greatness are the poor decisions that have gone into the RPG elements of the game; speech options, quest variety, skills etc.

It's also worth mentioning that most of the criticisms we have raised will probably be fixed by modders, if not official updates. One of the greatest enduring elements of Bethesda RPGs is how incredibly easy it is to mod, and to plug that mod straight into an existing game. Be it gameplay tweaks, interface overhauls, or even new quests and characters, the mod scene for Fallout will ensure that the lifespan of this game is essentially infinite. New content still comes out routinely for Fallout 3 and New Vegas, and it will be the same with Fallout 4.

Your money here gets you a staggeringly huge open world RPG, one which will be expanded indefinitely. You will easily sink 100 hours into the base game, and many more besides through the expansions and mods. Value for money indeed.

Bethesda are masters of the genre, and they come tantalizingly close to making the perfect game. If the series takes a few steps back in certain areas, it takes a huge leap forwards in others. For all its flaws, Fallout 4 is an easy game to recommend, and an unmissable event in gaming.

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