james debate
james debate

Saturday 30 December 2017

debbie debbies end of year awards 2017 best films music
The year was 2017. He was a twenty-something like any other, dreaming of his heroes and in love with a girl. But on a thunderous night along a ragged coast, a mysterious red car came to him, its power lighting his eyes blood-red.  It was at that moment that he knew what he had to do, an all-encompassing review of the world today, the blog post to end all blog posts. It is time once again for The Ephemeric's famous annual tradition. It's The Debbie Awards.

2016, as you may recall, was notable for being the year in which the universe began slowly imploding in on itself. 2017 by comparison has put things in perspective. As the world around us descends into ever greater levels of comic absurdity, life goes on, and even thrives. As always, The Debbies serve as a record of all that is good and noteworthy. Artistic endeavours, technological accomplishment, the pulse of business and politics. This event is about celebrating the best that human creativity and ingenuity has had to offer.

So without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2017 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:

2017 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Master of None (Netflix)
Runners Up: Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)

master of none netflix best tv show 2017

2017 has been an excellent year for TV. The quality we've seen once again from the likes of HBO, Netflix and Amazon truly marks a golden age for the medium, and perhaps for the first time represents even a greater relevance than cinema. Ultimately there was one show which stood out across all categories. The second season of Master of None really was something special; smart, endearing, and endlessly bold in its artistic vision. You can read what I had to say at the time via the above link, but suffice it to say this is a true star-making turn from Aziz Ansari and his collaborators, and must-see TV for everyone.

Last year's winner doesn't walk away empty handed either. Stranger Things returned this past Halloween with its second season, branded as a sequel in the mould of one of its many cinematic influences, and it was just as entertaining as the first. If Stranger Things took everyone a little bit by surprise last year, there is no such danger this time. Yet with high expectations and the confidence to match, Netflix's prestige 1980s homage hit every note just as sweetly as before, with sharp writing, addictive thrills, and flawless production. More than that, Stranger Things 2 takes great strides in opening up the mythos of Hakwins, Indiana, paving the way for what looks set to be an enduring series.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: The Orville (Fox)
Runners Up: Glow (Netflix)

the orville best new tv show 2017

I'm as shocked as anyone about this one. Ordinarily I find myself broadly agreeing with the critical consensus, and Fox's The Orville, a passion project of comedian Seth Macfarlane, has been critically panned almost universally. Yet despite the critical response, The Orville has been widely acclaimed by viewers (particularly Star Trek fans who feel jilted by the new series) and is among the highest rated TV shows of the fall. I'm sorry, but in this case I am with the latter camp. The critics are just plain wrong. Forbes' Erik Kain put it best. The Orville was billed as akin to a TV version of cult classic Galaxy Quest, essentially a spoof of the old Star Trek series. Subsequently critics have obsessed about forcing the show into neat boxes as either too silly for a drama, or too serious for a comedy. But this is nonsense. The Orville does not aspire to be a "comedy Star Trek" at all, it is in actual fact a near pitch perfect homage. People forget just how light the older Star Trek shows often were, and The Orville nails the tone of its forbears. But more importantly the stories are just as rich and relevant as ever. The Orville, as with Star Trek, is an example of moral science fiction. Each episode imparts its own social commentary, and most are very memorable. Some are so astute and incisive, and presented with modern flourish, that they even come away feeling like something more akin to an episode of Black Mirror. If you were a fan of The Next Generation or Voyager, this is a no-brainer. Even if you weren't, this is just high quality, sincere sci-fi. A strong debut.

For this year's runner up we are giving another award to Netflix, with the surprise hit Glow. For the unacquainted, this is a fictionalised telling of the true story of what was an attempt at creating a women's version of WWE wrestling. Now I have zero interest in wrestling, and the concept of the show did not appeal to me at all. You may feel similar, but push past that, because this is a brilliant series and you do yourself a disservice by dismissing it because of its subject matter. Glow shines due to its great writing, a killer cast (most notably breakout performances from Marc Maron and Alison Brie). But as is becoming the standard with other Netflix series, it's the flawless and stylish production that impresses most.

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Runner Up: Dunkirk

three billboards outside ebbing missouri martin mcdonagh frances mcdormand best film 2017 baby driver

A closely fought contest between our top two films of 2017, eventually won by the new Martin McDonagh release Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Those familiar with McDonaghs earlier work - In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, his Oscar winning short film Six Shooter, or any of his theatre work - will know what this writer/director is all about. His is a dark but brilliant wit, featuring heavily stylised characters, and occasional fits of vivid violence. Three Billboards still manages to impress and surprise, offering a more sober and focused effort at drama than we've come to expect, dialling down the absurdist humour and violent slapstick in favour of a more sincere and humanising message. Three Billboards won't be for everyone, but it's McDonagh's most mature work to date and features awards calibre performances from it's stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.

Following in second place is Christopher Nolan's new film Dunkirk. A dramatic depiction of the British withdrawal from Dunkirk, Belgium in the early stages of World War II, told through a series of unrelated vignettes which offer a touchingly personal perspective of history. Few directors can make an action scene as powerful as Nolan, and he is on fine form here along with his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, aided by the finest score of the year courtesy of Hans Zimmer. But what truly makes Dunkirk an affecting film is its lack of dramatic sentimentality; there is no forced adventure backstory, or fabricated hero of the piece, instead it presents a very raw and fact-based look at the war, one which holds no punches as to its brutality or its cruelty.

4. The Debbie for Variety 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

John Oliver remains the king of all talk show hosts for his poignant, yet still hilarious commentary. If anything, he has attained even greater relevance in the era of Trump, refusing to pull punches when it comes to calling out corruption in Washington, and taking the media to task for its timid response. Oliver would be the first to remind you not to take any one man's word as rote, but increasingly this show is etching its place as an essential voice among confusing times.

Equally benefitting from the chaotic national climate is Oliver's fellow Daily Show alumnus Stephen Colbert, now of The Late Show. If initially Colbert struggled to step into the shoes of the great David Letterman and find his audience, the increasingly charged political obsession in America has seen him renewed as a man without shackles. Political commentary is, after all, how Colbert made his name on the Daily Show and later his own Colbert Report. The past year has shown us that he still has the touch.

5. The Debbie for Hollywood Rising Star of the Year 
Winner: Timothee Chalamet
Runner Up: Jordan Peele

timothee chalamet breakthrough star of the year

The big star turn of 2017 has been that of twenty-one year old Timothee Chalamet. Chalamet has previously appeared in the major television institutions of Law & Order and Homeland, and worked with top directors such as Christopher Nolan. But 2017 has sent his career to a new level, starring in two of the year's most critically acclaimed films, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, the latter of which is considered to be one of the frontrunners on this year's awards circuit. And it just gets better from here, 2018 will see him star alongside Steve Carrell in Amazon's newest prestige drama Beautiful Boy, as well as the new Woody Allen movie A Rainy Day in New York. One to watch in the coming years.

For our runner up, let's mix it up a little by going for a director. 12 months ago Jordan Peele was best known as one half of the fairly pedestrian comedy duo Key & Peele, now he's the hottest name in Hollywood following his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Get Out. A critical darling, and with awards nominations aplenty, it's not even outside the realm of possibility to expect an Oscar nod in some form. Mostly though, everyone just wants to know where he's going next. Will he be a one hit wonder, or is this the start of a very promising filmmaking career?

6. The Debbie for YouTube Channel of the Year 
Winner: Primitive Technology
Runner Up: Isaac Arthur

debbies youtube channel of the year primitive technology isaac arthur 2017

YouTube has come a long way in recent years, moving on from lame Vlogs and people narrating themselves playing videogames. The website now offers much in the way of genuinely worthwhile content. And so, in a first for the Debbies, we will be recognising the best that YouTube has to offer. This year, the top prize goes to Primitive Technology, a channel following a single man's efforts to build increasingly complex technology and structures starting with nothing more than what he finds in the forest. A fire, tools, a house? He builds it all from mud and tree branches, and it's damned impressive. This is a great example of how YouTube content doesn't have to be obnoxiously narcissistic. No one knows who this chap is, he never speaks, just lets the content speak for itself, and there's something extremely relaxing about watching a guy silently connect with nature.

A close runner up, and in other circumstances a worthy winner, is the channel of Isaac Arthur. I don't know who Isaac is or what he does for a living, but on his YouTube channel he puts out extremely in-depth science videos of a shockingly high quality. For the most part, these videos consider the science behind potential future technologies or hypothetical concepts in the public discourse. Previous topics of conversation have included life extension technologies, societal reforms, space colonisation, general astronomy and physics. What makes these videos great is that he doesn't analyse the ideas from a fantastical science fiction point of view as you would normally see in media, but from the cold hard reality of science fact. The result is something that is both educational and a surprisingly considered look at what the future might hold.

Music, Art & Theatre

7. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Year 
Winner: Ink (Almeida)
Runner Up: Albion (Almeida)

ink almeida best theatre 2017

It has been a wonderful year for the Almeida Theatre in London. Arguably the three biggest shows of the year have been on their stage, and this year they can lay claim to both our winner and runner up place in the prestigious theatre Debbie. The top prize goes to James Graham's new play Ink. You can read what I had to say about it at the time from the link, but in short: James Graham is one of the most consistently thrilling political playwrights in the game, Bertie Carvel's Rupert Murdoch performance is a masterpiece in capturing the essence of a person, and Ink is just a brilliant good time, as well as an extremely timely bit of theatre.

The runner up prize is claimed by another Almeida production, Albion. Mike Bartlett's Brexit parable is an equally timely story, with another masterclass performance to go with it, from Vitoria Hamilton. Perhaps not as much of a crowd-pleaser as Ink, but Albion pulls no punches with its commentary, and is must see theatre.

8. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: I See You - The xx
Runner Up: Pure Comedy - Father John Misty

the xx i see you best album 2017

Surprisingly for a year which included new albums from two of my favourite bands, The Killers and Arcade Fire, neither has placed on this list. Instead The Ephemeric  has found itself won over by the consistency and quality of The xx's third studio album, I See You. A fine album as a whole, with a few particularly excellent songs. Lead singles On Hold and I Dare You were song of the year contenders, while A Violent Noise is a mesmerising and unique track. I See You as a whole is an album that successfully manages to evolve the sound of the band in bold, creative ways without losing what made them great.

A close runner up is Father John Misty's clever new album Pure Comedy. Tillman's caustic philosophising has never sounded so good. Lyrics are on-point and touch on themes of politics, social media, ageing and human nature. The result is the most mature work yet produced by the band, and simultaneously the most beautiful. Definitely check out lead single Pure Comedy, but for me the real highlight is 10 minute odyssey So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain, a strong contender for song of the year.

9. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: Process - Sampha
Runner Up: Electric Lines - Joe Goddard

sampha process best debut album 2017

Sampha's debut album has been a long time coming, originally making an impression as far back as 2013. The artist's blend of smooth r&b with electronic and folk influences has proved an award winning combination, and debut album Process has been critically acclaimed by just about everyone. Those unacquainted will want to check out tracks like Without and No One Knows Me.

Also worthy of note is Electric Lines, the debut solo album of Joe Goddard, best known for his work with the band Hot Chip. But you don't have to be a fan of the British electronica group to appreciate the variety on offer here. There's title track Electric Lines with its brand of contemporary folk, one can move on to the more electronica-influenced Nothing Moves, and then kick back with a delicious slice of disco retro in Home. It's an album well worth giving a chance.

10. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: Long Time - Blondie
Runners Up: Some Kind of Love - The Killers, Down By the Water - Amy Macdonald

blondie long time best song 2017

2017 was certainly not a year lacking in great music. The pick of the bunch this year is the crown jewel of Blondie's excellent comeback album, Long Time. This track is just gold, a piece of euphoric pop that compares favourably even with the best of Blondie's classic hits. The evergreen Debbie Harry imbues her vocals with such energy that you'll scarcely believe she's really 72 years old.

Our runner up is the pick of the new album from The Killers. The Brian Eno produced Some Kind of Love gives us a side of The Killers that we seldom see, tender and ethereal. A far cry from the roof-raising anthems that one identifies with their bigger hits. Great song, expertly composed.

Lastly a shout out to specifically the acoustic version of Amy Macdonald's Down By the Water. Amy Macdonald remains an underrated song-writer, and in particular when she sticks to her folk-acoustic roots. Fortunately with her most recent album, she had the foresight to record every song twice, once in full studio, and once acoustic. This is the album's pinnacle, but you would do yourself a favour to check out the other acoustic tracks as well.

11. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year 
Winner: Tears for Fears

tears for fears best live performance 2017

London is fortunate to play host to some of the best performers of our time, and music fans have no shortage of concerts to attend in a given year. For a year which has seen impressive tours from the likes of The Killers and The Kooks, The Ephemeric opts to give recognition to the unexpected return of one of the best bands of the 1980s, Tears for Fears. The duo have lost none of their edge or singing ability in the years since, and it was a joy to hear hits such as Everybody Wants to Rule the WorldPale Shelter and Mad World in full live glory. Well worth catching for old hands and newbies alike, some songs just don't get old.

12. The Debbie for Art Exhibition of the Year 
Winner: Paul Klee at The Beyeler Foundation

paul klee beyeler foundation basel best art exhibition 2017

Far be it from me to suggest that London does not have the world's finest art galleries (particularly the Royal Academy of Arts!), but really very little compares with a day out at Basel's most sublime meeting point, the Beyeler Foundation. I was hugely impressed by last year's exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter, and in 2017 they have done it again with a superb collection of Paul Klee. The paintings are remarkable enough in their own right, and some of his more notable works are on show throughout the gallery. Really though it's the state of the art facilities, with natural lighting and the relaxing bucolic setting, that allow you to enjoy the work as it was meant to be, and make the experience something extra special

Business & Technology

13. The Debbie for Scientific/Technological Breakthrough of the Year 
Winner: Artificial Meat

artificial meat impossible burger beyond meat memphis meats best important technological breakthrough 2017

It's been talked about for years, but hype in the field of artificial meat is reaching a fever pitch now. The first products are being released in American grocery stores and restaurants, and that has brought near daily coverage in media. There are many reasons why this is a good idea. It's healthier to eat, it's better for the environment, can be grown in large quantities, and of course it does not require killing an animal. Do not underestimate this, a sufficiently convincing artificial meat product could be a world changing development.

The two companies currently on market, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, specialise in meat-like products that are in fact made from reconstituted plant protein in such a way that there is supposedly little difference from regular meat. Theoretically there is no reason why this shouldn't be possible given sophisticated enough technology, after all meat and plant proteins are ultimately made from the same building blocks. These two players are betting that we have finally reached the point where current technology can make such a feat possible. But potentially more exciting is the method being used by Memphis Meats, among other companies. This is clean meat, that is to say, actual meat cells being grown in a lab. The theory here is that meat is meat, whether it is grown in a lab or on an animal, assuming it can be grown in equivalent conditions. Hypothetically then, there should be no taste or texture difference at all from regular meat.

I'm keen to try both, though I remain skeptical that plant protein can ever really taste like the real thing. I expect the Memphis Meats approach will be the preferred option, assuming they can bring down the cost of production sufficiently.

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

nintendo switch best console for gaming

It's been a bumper year for gaming, and in particular for Nintendo, whose Switch console has been a hit since launching this past spring. The technology itself is quite remarkable. The Switch features detachable controllers and a built in screen, meaning that it can be used either as a TV-connected home console or as a completely mobile handheld device. More impressive is how the console transitions so seamlessly between the two; simply pick up or place the Switch in its dock and it will instantly switch between TV and in-built display, without requiring a reboot of the console, or a restart of the game.

For such a small console (about the size of an ordinary handheld) the Switch packs a surprising amount of heft. It is impressive indeed to be playing a massive AAA game in full HD on your TV, and then seamlessly transition to playing the same game on a handheld, with very little noticeable difference in performance. Add to this Nintendo's best effort yet at online infrastructure, including a better-late-than-never embracing of DLC and multiplayer services, as well as Nintendo's formidable Virtual console, and there's an awful lot to like about this little device.

15. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
Runners Up: Mario Odyssey (Switch), What Remains of Edith Finch (PC)

zelda breath of wild switch game of the year 2017

So the Switch is a fascinating piece of technology, sure. But what has really helped the system fly off the shelves is software, with possibly a more impressive first year line up of games than any console in memory. Two Switch titles can already make genuine claim to being among the best games ever made, and naturally their quality will be recognised here at the Debbies. The first up is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can read my more detailed thoughts at the above link, but the conclusion is simple. Breath of the Wild is a triumph, even by the lofty standards set by the Zelda series. This marks Nintendo's first attempt at a genuine open-world game, and they have pulled it off in a way that few developers ever have, with a world that is so well-realised, so tantalising to explore, and so interactive through it's brilliant and intuitive range of gameplay systems that just wandering about aimlessly is a memorable experience.

Then along came Mario Odyssey, very nearly stealing Breath of the Wild's thunder. Odyssey returns to the more open-ended level design from Mario 64 and Sunshine, but otherwise it's essentially the classic Mario platforming formula. So what's so special? It comes down to brilliant gameplay design. The levels and puzzles are so clever and well honed that you'll marvel at how Nintendo still have so many fresh ideas after so many years. As with the new Zelda, Nintendo have clearly put a lot of thought into the game's complementary gameplay systems that interact in unexpected ways to make Odyssey a true joy and surprising until the end. I defy anyone to play this without a smile on their face.

Breaking away from Nintendo for our second runner up is What Remains of Edith Finch. This is the debut release of Anapurna's new interactive division, and it's clear that they haven't lost any of their storytelling flair in the switch from cinema to gaming. Edith Finch tells the story of a young lady who returns to her abandoned familial home to revisit the stories of several generations of ancestors and relatives, all of whom have met with unfortunate ends. But far from some morbid eulogy, Edith Finch is a rich and touching tale, brimming with personality. Each story features its own unique gameplay and visual presentation in ways that will constantly surprise and impress, while exploring this unique house, with its haphazard construction and hidden secrets presents a marvel in world-building.

16. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Amazon

amazon company of the year 2017

From an online book merchant to one of the world's burgeoning tech superpowers, Amazon is a company that is quickly becoming all pervasive in ways many people don't even realise. In addition to being the world's largest internet retailer, Amazon has branched out into consumer electronics with the Kindle, grocery shopping with Amazon Fresh, and is now also the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services. On top of this, Amazon is making a real play for the future of your living room with its Echo products, and currently looks set to be one of the major players in the internet of things alongside Apple and Google. That's impressive enough even before you remember that they now produce award winning television series, and Oscar winning films, with a streaming service that many people are starting to say compares favourably even with Netflix.

From retail, to our kitchens and living rooms, the entertainment industry, and those all important web services; Amazon has a genuine claim to being the most influential company in the world. 2017 was a bumper year that saw their stock fly in value, making Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in the world. Also, they're making drones.

17. The Debbie for Startup of the Year
Winner: Bloom & Wild

bloom wild startup company of the year 2017

This is a delightful little company as anyone who has used their services will attest. Bloom & Wild deliver flowers, but cognisant of today's hectic lifestyle and the fact that most of us spend our days in the office, they deliver their products in a manner that does not require anyone to be home to receive. Flowers arrive as buds, carefully and individually wrapped in mesh paper (and depending on the set, maybe even with glassware included). This is all packaged into a letterbox sized cardboard box and popped through your door on a specified date. No fuss, beautiful flowers to your door. Their latest injection of capital will allow them to spread this great business model in to Europe. With annual subscription and gifting options available, one can see this becoming a regular mainstay in our living rooms.


18. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid

cristiano ronaldo real madrid best footballer player in the world football 2017

2017 has been a fantastic year for Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Ballon D'or capping off a year in which Madrid won a stunning quadruple of silverware, including a record 12th Champions League title. There's no separating this success from Ronaldo, who on present form and despite his advancing years, is the most complete football player in the world. A genius comparable with Messi, but with a physique and burst of pace that reflects superior athleticism. The time is surely drawing near when the world game will no longer be dominated by these two, but for now Ronaldo wins another Debbie and rightly so.

19. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Kylian Mbappe - PSG

kylian mbappe psg paris monaco best young footballer player in the world 2017

An astonishing year for the teenage Kylian Mbappé, who despite his tender years has become the second most expensive player of all time following a bumper £150 million move from Monaco to their Ligue 1 rivals PSG, and the most expensive teenager. It is difficult to pretend that his accomplishments to date have merited such status, but that's not to say that he isn't a very promising young footballer. A player with the finesse and poise of Thierry Henry, but the power of the Brazilian Ronaldo during his younger years, Mbappé should be a world star for years to come. Hopefully receiving so much hype at such a young age will not adversely impact his career trajectory.

20. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Antonio Conte - Chelsea

best football manager in the world 2017 antonio conte

While there are many outstanding candidates for the top football manager in 2017, there are few where you can definitively state that the manger himself has elevated the level of a team. Zidane? Great manager, but would that stacked Madrid team really be doing any worse without him? Ditto Ernesto Valverde. In the case of Antonio Conte though, one has to marvel at how he has taken a 10th place club to Premier League champions in a single season. This despite minimal transfer activity compared to his more spendthrift rivals, and a squad with more holes than Swiss cheese. More than that though, it's just great to see someone in football with this passion; jumping, screaming, crowd-diving after a goal, and most importantly a gentleman towards his opposite number in all circumstances. Football needs more people like Conte.

21. The Debbie for Football Club of the Year 
Winner: Chapecoense

football club of the year 2017 chapecoense

"Now wait," I hear you say, "that tragic Chapecoense event was last year." Correct, I'm not here to recognise them for tragedy, but for the remarkable response that has played out in the year since that awful day. Remember that at the time of the crash, Chapecoense were relative newcomers to the top flight of Brazilian football, and their future at the highest level far from assured. Yet since this tragedy, they have gone on to record their highest ever finish in Brazilian football, won the Campeonato Catarinese regional league, and made credible efforts in both the Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores (their first ever appearance in the competition). It's been a fine year by any team's standards, let alone for a team that tragically lost most of its playing squad just a year ago. An inspiring effort and a heartwarming story.

Current Events

22. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Emmanuel Macron

emmanuel macron politician of the year 2017

In a year with little in the way of positive role models among the political class, our top prize for politicking goes to Emmanuel Macron. Amid a so-called wave of right wing extremism in western democracies, Macron struck a major victory for moderates and centrists by showing that it is possible to gain popular support without pandering or selling yourself out to our darker instincts.

More incredible is the manner of Macron's victory. To successfully run as an independent candidate in modern day politics is unheard of at the national level, much less to gain as historically large a majority as Macron did. To put that into context, this isn't like Labour or the Tories becoming Prime Minister, this isn't even like the Liberal Democrats or UKIP becoming Prime Minister, this is more like Lord Buckethead becoming Prime Minister and picking up a record number of seats in the process. It's astonishing when you think about it and teaches a secondary, but no less important lesson that maybe we don't have to accept a "lesser of two evils" party system, maybe 21st Century democracy can accommodate a truly independent movement that isn't beholden to the politics of identity, but instead to whomever happens to be the best man for the job. Maybe we don't need the Tories or Labour, but can vote for someone in whom we actually believe.

Macron has proceeded to implement his vision, returning France to a state of efficient economic liberalism, and earns majority support among his people. I dare say it's an example for other democracies to follow.

23. The Debbie for Scandal of the Year 
Winner: Donald Trump

donald trump scandal 2017 russia

I'm thinking about removing this category, because it's far too obvious who's going to win for as long as Donald Trump is President (so another year at least then). Let's just get to it then: basically ever since he was inaugurated Trump has been under investigation for one thing or another. The Russia investigation appears to be reaching fever pitch, with four indictments and two guilty pleas even at this early stage from among his senior campaign/administration staff, and suggestion that he or members of his immediate family could be in the firing line sooner rather than later. The US intelligence services consider information provided by MI6 agents indicating that Russia's Government has some means of coercion over Trump to be credible. This Russia scandal is the most significant political scandal since Watergate, and probably even more so. A hostile foreign power swinging an election and installing a puppet leader in the United States is the stuff of movies and bad thrillers, and now it appears to be fact.

But guess what, that's not all! What about the dozens of accusations of sexual assault corroborated by contemporaneous evidence? What about his flagrant violation of emoluments clause regarding conflicts of interest with his businesses, currently working their way through the courts? What about his astonishing response to the murder of an American citizen by radical white supremacist terrorists by claiming that "both sides" were to blame? The truth is that each of these, as well as scandals in Puerto Rico, his war against law enforcement agencies, violations of the free press, as well as apparent fraud committed by his administration, and probably many others, would ordinarily be enough to remove a politician from office. Many of these are crimes. We've never seen anything like this before in western democracy. He's not even been President for a year, buckle up.

24. The Debbie for Cause of the Year 
Winner: Independence of the press

republican trump brexit nazi fascist autocracy authoritarian freedom independence press media most important issue 2017

In this era of corrupt politicians, fake news, and massive propaganda campaigns, it's more important than ever before that we ensure an independent and uncensored press. The only way to combat propaganda is to ensure that the general public is well informed and has access to verified, peer reviewed facts. The corrupt powers know this, which is why they exert so much energy on trying to censor information, discredit reputable and independent sources, and when that doesn't work, drown it out with an overload of fake information. The sad truth is that the credibility of the press is at a low, and much of that is their fault. But we need real journalism now more than ever. We need robust fact checkers, and widespread access to that data. Reality is not a matter of opinion and facts do matter. We are witnessing a concerted effort to turn western democracy into a Russia-style propaganda state. We all need to start paying attention now if we want to prevent this slide into Orwellian dystopia.

25. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: Jeff Bezos

jeff bezos robert mueller person of the year 2017

The Ephemeric's person of the year award goes to the man recently crowned the world's richest, Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The wealth itself is not the mark of accomplishment, but rather what it signifies, the surge in fortunes of Amazon. Bezos himself is the man who had the vision to take the company from its humble book-slinging beginnings into the global super-power that it is now, during which time he personally has transformed from librarian to Iron Man's more badass uncle. His time at Amazon has brought significant innovation not only to online retail, but to consumer electronics, cloud technology, AI and home automation. Also drones.

But his influence extends beyond one company. Incubator Bezos Expeditions has its fingers in many of the world's most innovative companies, from Google to Airbnb, Makerbot and Uber. He owns the Washington Post, the journalistic driving force behind Watergate, the Pentagon papers, and the current Russia-Lago scandal. He's even followed Elon Musk into the private space industry with Blue Origins, a company that actually managed to beat SpaceX to become the first company to launch and safely land a reusable rocket. In the developing world of the tech super powers, Bezos and Amazon are very much at the forefront, which makes him our pick for most influential of 2017.

Social & Lifestyle

26. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Marianne

marianne lumb london best restaurant 2017

When it comes to dining out in London these days, we are truly spoilt for choice. Our pick of the bunch for 2017 is newcomer Marianne, project of head chef Marianne Lumb. I gather that Ms Lumb was on some kind of reality TV series as a contestant, though I would never watch such a thing. If being headed by a TV chef gives you any misgivings, not to fret, Marianne is wonderful.

The food itself is great; a multi-course tasting menu, but one that doesn't prove overbearing as it does in many top-range restaurants. Dishes are technically accomplished and invigorated with fresh flavour combinations. While many tasting menus just go through the motions, this is a setlist that has been crafted with the joy of a chef who loves food. But the key element of this evening is the experience. The atelier is very small, seating only fourteen people across four tables in a single seating, while Chef Marianne comes out to greet guests towards the end of the evening. For those seeking an intimate evening of delightful dining, this is the place for you, but move quickly before she relocates to a larger location.

27. The Debbie for Nightclub/Bar of the Year 
Winner: Bourne & Hollingsworth

bourne hollingsworth best bar club london 2017

London has no shortage of fine drinking establishments, but one this year stands head and shoulders above the rest. Bourne & Hollingsworth is one of those delightful venues that suits all occasions. By morning it's a bright and leafy brunch locale, by night a classy lounge with a fireplace, sofas, and some of the best cocktails in the city, and by later night the downstairs club area opens up, complete with dance floor and novelty sharing drinks. So whatever mood you might be in, this is your one stop shop for a great night out.

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

alessandro palazzi dukes bar best mixologist

My annual shout out to The Duke's Bar owner Alessandro. 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 white truffle martini, and now for the first time, actual snacks with which to line your stomach.

29. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: Everywhere, Canada

canada everywhere vancouver toronto viarail best holiday destination 2017

Canada is not necessarily the first place people think of for a magical vacation, but their lives are the poorer for it. In Toronto, Canada boasts a world class city with culture, shopping and good food. But the real attraction is the country itself, the second largest in the world by area, and so heavily urbanised that the vast majority remains stunningly unspoilt. Many other countries have natural beauty, but few if any have quite so much of it, from dramatic mountainous regions to staggering open flatland, dense, untouched forests the size of Western Europe, and hundreds of thousands (seriously) of beautiful lakes.

And then there's the people; friendly, reasoned, and well educated. One of the best compliments I can pay to Canada is that it is like America, but without the Americans. This year we decided to take the train right from the west coast of Vancouver to Toronto in the east, and were treated to a tour of the entire country-scape in between, and it is an experience that won't soon be forgotten.

30. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Bibbiano Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino 2011
bibbiano capannino gran selezione 2011 best wine 2017

The up and coming Chianti vineyard of Bibbiano takes the prize this year, specifically with its wonderful gran selezione of 2011, the Vigna del Capannino. Visitors to this modest estate will be greeted by the signs of expansion everywhere; a new restaurant is in the works, and even accommodation to stay. If the lunch we had on our tour was any indication, that restaurant will be well worthwhile. But of course, the main attraction is the wine, and the Capannino is one to savour. Smooth with strong berry tones and warming palate, a good example of the Sangiovese grape, and a terrific accompaniment to any meat dish.

31. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year 
Winner: Franck Bonville Cuvée Le Belle Voyes

best champagne 2017 franck bonville cuvee belles voyes

And finally we have our top prize for champagne, and it's a comeback for Franck Bonville, the mid-sized factory fast becoming the champagne of choice for connoisseurs. It's hard to go wrong with a basic blanc de blancs, or even their stately Millésime, but our pick of the bunch has to be the special collection Belles Voyes grand cru blanc de blancs. Like drinking liquid stardust, to be savoured on special occasions.

Well there you have it. 2017 will go down as an interesting year for sure, but here's to the next one being even better!

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