james debate
james debate

Friday 29 December 2023

debbie debbies end of year awards 2023 best films music

It's that time of year again. The bubbly is uncorked, the salad forks chilled. The tables are set for an evening of debaucherous hedonism. Break out your finest evening wear and your dancing shoes, because tonight we are all going to the big show with VIP tickets. It's the Debbie Awards, the traditional end of year showstopper that celebrates the good, the bad, and the downright dazzling of the year gone by. 

As 2023 draws to a close, it stands out as a year marked by significant global transformation and resilience. The world saw substantial progress in the fight against climate change, with unprecedented international agreements taking bold steps towards sustainability. Technological advancements continued at a rapid pace, particularly in the fields of AI and renewable energy, leading to innovative solutions to long-standing challenges. 

On the cultural front, 2023 witnessed something of a content overload as the world continues to play catch up on all the delayed projects of the last three years. Music, theatre, film and videogames. Increasingly it's a challenge (but a good one) to keep up with everything. This means there is never any shortage of new culture, but it is not for the FOMO of heart. Despite its challenges, 2023 was a testament to human adaptability and the enduring spirit of cooperation in shaping a more hopeful future

Without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2023 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:

2023 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: The Bear (Hulu)
Runner Up: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

best tv show 2023 the bear hulu

At a time when there exists more numerous premium streaming networks than hours in the day, it's only natural that occasionally, just occasionally, you will miss something good. I have to hold my hands up and say that The Bear's first season was that something for me. Well this year, with season 2, I made no mistake. The Bear is a tour de force of television. A raw look into the food industry, as capable of delivering tender character moments as it is scenes of stomach-churning intensity. The sixth episode of the season, Fishes, might just be the best episode of a television series I've seen this decade, and it's followed up by Forks, another episode that could well compete for that title. If you have not yet watched The Bear, do yourself a favour and do so now.

I'm definitely going to get some stick for this runner up prize. But you know what, I'm owning it. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' second season is not just fantastic Star Trek, it's fantastic television. It shows that the production team at Paramount have finally struck the right blend between drama and levity, but also that they are having fun in the process. This season features a number of bold creative decisions, including a crossover episode with an animated TV series that might just be the funniest episode in the franchise's history, and a fully musical episode that has to be seen to be believed.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: The Last of Us (HBO)
Runner Up: Daisy Jones & the Six (Amazon)

best new tv show 2023 the last of us hbo playstation pedro pascal bella ramsey

An increasingly competitive field, with an absolutely astronomical number of high quality new series released each year (hard luck on narrowly missing out, Scott Pilgrim). But this year's standout is a series that was named by many critics to be amongst the best of all TV series this year, The Last of Us. I'll admit I was caught off guard by this one. Videogame adaptations generally don't have the best of track records, and I wasn't a big fan of the source game in the first place. The Last of Us succeeds where others have failed by keeping the focus on the narrative substance of its source material, trying to find ways to make it accessible to new audiences, rather than lazily attempting to pander to fans of the game. The result is a masterful example of character-focused storytelling that manages to find the human element amid all the horror. Also, forget what I said above for The Bear. Episode 3, Long, Long Time might just be the best television episode of the decade.

Runner up goes to Daisy Jones & the Six, the adaptation of the wonderful novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It was always going to be challenging to make a one to one adaptation from a novel notable for its non-conventional narrative format. The result is a much more traditional form of storytelling, but one which still manages to capture the essence of the text; the frictional genius, the price of stardom, the interplay between art and life. That it manages to do so with a suitably catchy original soundtrack only sweetens the deal - you won't quite believe that these are the timeless hits they claim to be, but they're good enough that within the fiction you could believe. 

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: Maestro
Runner Up: The Holdovers

best film 2023 maestro leonard bernstein bradley cooper carrey mulligan holdovers giamatti

I have to say, Bradley Cooper is a far better actor than I ever gave him credit. His performance in Maestro is nothing short of magnificent, such a total embodiment of composer Leonard Bernstein that at times you can scarcely believe it's actually Cooper on screen. His talents are equally matched by his co-star Carey Mulligan, one of the finest actresses of her generation, and a potential Oscar contender (albeit in a crowded field). Cooper may also be a better filmmaker than an actor. If his debut picture, 2018's remake of A Star is Born, hinted at his potential talent, his second film absolutely confirms it. Maestro is an impeccably produced visual treat with some of the most gorgeous cinematography I've seen in years. 

Coming in second this year is a film that seems to have flown under the radar for many. The Holdovers is the latest film from Oscar winning director Alexander Payne. Set against the backdrop of an American boarding school, Paul Giamatti plays a curmudgeonly teacher tasked with watching over the students who have nowhere to go during the holiday season. A heart-warming and poignant blend of humour with deep emotional resonance, the film skilfully balances its lighter, comedic moments with its more reflective, introspective beats, creating a narrative that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

4. The Debbie for Variety Show Host of the Year 
Winner: Hannah Waddingham

hannah waddingham game of thrones ted lasso home for christmas eurovision talk show host of the year 2023

Alright, we're giving this to Hannah Waddingham. Let's face it, it's Hannah's year. In 2023 the Ted Lasso and Game of Thrones star shot to "national treasure" status and has been the go-to option for charming British hosts, heading up a variety of events and specials, most notably Eurovision and her own Christmas special Home for Christmas. She's a talented actress, funny, great singer, and naturally charming. Let's hope to see more of this in 2024.

5. The Debbie for Rising Star of the Year 
Winner: Jack Wolfe

Jack Wolfe Shadow and Bone next to normal breakthrough star of the year 2023

Always a tricky contest to award, not least of all because by the time the year comes to a close, most of those rising stars will have risen and no longer be a prospect of the future. This year's prize goes to a young actor who has been making a lot of noise in London musical theatre, Jack Wolfe. 2023 has turned out to be a breakout year for the actor, earning wide acclaim and awards recognition for his role in the Pulitzer prize winning musical, Next to Normal, which is making a West End transfer next year. This year also saw Wolfe take his first starring role in the successful Netflix series Shadow and Bone. Whether it's in theatre, television, or film, there's a lot of hype about this young man and a sense that he could catch fire in the next couple of years.

6. The Debbie for Web-Show of the Year 
Winner: Did You Know Gaming?

debbies youtube webshow video blog channel of the year did you know gaming 2023

If you're a fan of gaming and the Internet, chances are you will have come across this blog and web series. Did You Know Gaming has been around forever, enlightening audiences with geeky game facts and trivia. Until now it's just been one of those bits of institutional Internet fun, the kind of thing that will get bounced around social media without much thought paid. The last year has seen something of a reinvention, a shift towards far more substantial investigative work, with serious research, in depth interviews, and some truly major scoops. 

No longer just obscure and quirky trivia, but uncovering lost and cancelled games, never before seen footage, including from some major franchises including Sonic the Hedgehog and the Legend of Zelda. As a perennially online geek myself, I thought I had heard everything, but some of the content they have been putting out this year has been truly eye opening.

Music, Art & Theatre

7. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Year 
Winner: Patriots (Noel Coward Theatre)
Runner Up: Next To Normal (Donmar Warehouse)

patriots putin berezovsky next to normal best theatre 2023

2023 has, quietly, been one of the better years in theatre that I can remember. I can only apologise that there are a number of excellent productions that will not make this list, and even among the two I have named here, it's so close that the difference comes down to almost a coin flip. Either one of these productions would have been a worthy winner in another year. But ultimately, I have decided to give top prize to Patriots, the latest production from legendary writer Peter Morgan. Patriots unwinds the messy story of Russia's fall from communism, the rise of the oligarchs and, in particular, the conflict between Vladimir Putin and Boris Berezovsky. This is such a complicated, convoluted series of events, but one that is so pivotal to understanding modern geopolitics and so much of the military and political conflicts in the world today. That they were able to take this story and make it so accessible and entertaining, is really something of a miracle. Patriots is not just excellent theatre, it's essential.

Despite my fervent praise for Patriots, on another day I may easily have gone with Next to Normal instead. That this is only the eighth musical in history to win the prestigious Pulitzer prize should give you some idea of its substance. I'll not say too much, as it is best to go into this one completely blind, but suffice it to say this production plumbs some very deep and dark places, boldly addressing the topics of mental health and treatment. Yet, it does so in a way that is strangely energizing, owing much to its tight scripting, catchy music and some dazzling performances. Next to Normal is transferring to the West End in 2024. If you haven't yet seen it, make sure that you do.

8. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: Javelin - Sufjan Stevens
Runners Up: For That Beautiful Feeling - The Chemical Brothers, Fantasy - M83

javelin sufjan stevens chemical brothers beautiful feeling fantasy m83 best album 2023

Folk musician Sufjan Stevens has a particular sound that he does well, and on his latest album Javelin, he does it spectacularly well. This is an album of crystalline, perfectly composed tracks that lean heavily into his intimate, singer-songwriter stylings, but with a level of multi-instrumental polish in the production that belies the artist's increasing confidence and technical adroitness. This is, perhaps, best accomplished in a Running Start, a song of singular longing that starts off sounding like a sweet, sunny composition of late sixties folk pop, before bursting into a flying instrumental finale. The more on-the-nose-edly titled Will Anybody Ever Love Me? is another instant classic slice of pop goodness. But perhaps the standout here comes in the 8 minute epic, Shit Talk

2023 also saw a strong return to form for The Chemical Brothers. The venerable electronic music artists have been making music since before I started listening to music, but latest album For That Beautiful Feeling may rank among their best work, certainly in the last fifteen years. Lead single The Darkness That You Fear is a hopeful, driving epic, named by this blog as the best track of 2021 and certainly among the best tracks to be released in the 2020s so far. Elsewhere, Live Again is a mesmerising, irresistibly danceable rave of a track. Spectacular album.

And in third place, the latest adventure from French synth-pop outfit M83, Fantasy. While it may not reach the heights, overall, of the band's finest work, Fantasy nevertheless presents a collection of fantastic individual tracks that bely the group's mastery of their craft. The soaring Earth To Sea is probably the pick of the tracks, but together with lead singles Oceans Niagara and Amnesia they form one of the most compelling opening salvos of any album. This is music you want to just dive into and swim.

9. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: the record - boygenius
Runner Up: A Producer from Vienna - Filous

the record boygenius filous producer from vienna filous best debut album 2023

2023 has also been a very strong year for new musical artists. This year's winner, boygenius is an artist whose debut album the record has been named by many critics as among the year's very best from all artists, old and new. Having previously burst onto the scene in 2018 with their eponymous EP, this first full length LP has been coming for a while, and it's safe to say it did not disappoint. A raw, confessional style album that weaves the unique voices of the band's three creatives, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker into a cohesive vision. It's a balance of styles: the delicate acoustics of Cool About It with the more powerful, resonant moments of Not Strong Enough. But the highlight track has to be True Blue, an introspective, beautiful piece of music. 

A similar story for the runner up position. Austrian DJ Filous emerged way back in 2015 with a highly successful EP and has been slowly working his way to a full LP release in the years since. In 2023, this finally came to pass with A Producer from Vienna, a debut album that is as diverse and creative as one would expect from his past work, featuring collaborations with an array of elite artistic talents, including the Kooks with Hey Love, and Daoi Freyr with Sabada. A strong and confident debut piece of work. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

10. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: Earth to Sea - M83
Runners Up: Sightseer - Nation of Language, Running Start - Sufjan Stevens

earth to sea m83 fantasy best song 2023

A competitive year for music then, even more so when it comes to specific tracks. For this year's top prize, however, there was one clear standout. Earth To Sea is the stand out track from M83's new album, Fantasy. An absolutely blazing anthem that drips with the nostalgia of 1980s Hollywood, evoking a sense of adventure and, well, Fantasy.

Our first runner up is Nation of Language with the highlight track of their 2023 album Strange Disciple, Sightseer. A rich and layered blending of nostalgic 1980s synth-pop with modern indie sensibilities, Sightseer epitomizes the signature sound of NoL. Something timeless, mesmerising and quite special.

Finally, third place goes to my pick of Sufjan Stevens' Debbie Award winning album Javelin, Running Start. This is classic Sufjan: sparse, intimate acoustic notes with lyrics that only get better the more closely you read them, building towards a bold and stunning breakdown in the final third of the track that sweeps you off your feet. Possibly one of the best songs he's ever written.

11. The Debbie for Live Concert of the Year 
Winner: Stars

stars best live performance concert 2023

We're going full dad-rock for this year's live performance prize. Canadian indie rockers Stars are a seminal group for the angsty teens of the early 2000s, but unlike many artists of that ilk, their work holds up, with classic tracks including Your Ex-Lover is DeadTake Me to the Riot and Dead Hearts. The band have lost none of their edge over the years and this year's tour, in particular, was just an overflow of fun, with special guests, fun anecdotes, an amusing bait and switch, and great music. Just an overall fantastic night out.

12. The Debbie for Art Exhibition of the Year 
Winner: Hallyu! The Korean Wave - V&A

korean wave hallyu v&a victoria and albert london best art exhibition 2023

The V&A in London has put on some excellent exhibitions in the last few years, celebrating disparate cultures, pop movements and specific artists in memorable fashion. Their 2023 headline was Hallyu! a deep dive into South Korean culture that has increasingly taken the western world by storm with the prevalence of K-pop, K-drama, and global smash hits such as Squid Game and Gangnam Style. All this and more is represented in this vibrant and colourful exhibition, well worth an afternoon in South Kensington.

13. The Debbie for Book of the Year 
Winner: The Wager - David Grann

the wager david grann killers flower moon best novel book 2023

The Wager is historical non-fiction, telling the true story of the HMS Wager, which shipwrecked in 1781. Several months later, a group of survivors return to Britain to be greeted as heroes. A further six months on, a second group of survivors return, accusing the first of mutiny and murder. David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon, has pulled off something remarkable here. Taking us step by step through the ill-fated voyage, from its conception and preparation, to the first weeks of the mission, the ensuing shipwreck and establishment of a makeshift settlement. 

I am not a big non-fiction reader, but then I never imagined that non-fiction could be as gripping or as exciting as The Wager. The attention to detail, the psychological insight, the historical context. It's all impeccable and really brings the reader into the story. For a non-fiction novel to have characters who are so vivid and well-explored, a setting and narrative that is so immersive, is truly impressive. 

Business & Technology

14. The Debbie for Scientific/Technological Breakthrough of the Year 
Winner: Alzheimer's Immunotherapy

alzheimers immunotherapy best important technological breakthrough 2023

2023 saw significant breakthroughs in Alzheimer's immunotherapy bringing renewed hope to what was once seen as a uncompromising and irreversible illness. This year's developments increased our understanding of the role of the immune system in Alzheimer's pathology, leading to the development of innovative immunotherapies. 

These treatments, aimed at targeting the underlying causes of Alzheimer's, showed promise in clinical trials by reducing amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, key hallmarks of the disease. The year may mark a turning point, demonstrating efficacy in halting cognitive decline. While more research is needed, the 2023 breakthroughs offered a ray of optimism for hopes that this could one day become a fully treatable condition.

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

nintendo switch indie zelda virtual console best console for gaming 2023

This year saw a bit of a quiet period in terms of new videogame systems, with the latest generation now in full flow, and the next at least a few years away from reveal. Despite this, the Nintendo Switch pulled out a few new tricks that make it worthy of praise. 

Firstly, this year saw the release of the Nintendo Switch Online service, essentially the "virtual console" of this generation. Among the various online and multiplayer focused services, NSO also offers access to a staggeringly large library of classic games from generations gone by, including the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and even non-Nintendo systems like the Sega Megadrive. This makes it immediately one of the best gaming libraries accessible anywhere. 

The second feather in the Switch's cap comes from its support of indie game developers. Between a streamlined dev kit, more favourable online shop policies, and regular official showcases, there isn't a better system for small developers looking to break into the industry.

16. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Switch)
Runners Up: Alan Wake 2 (PC, Xbox, Playstation), A Highland Song (PC, MacOS, Switch)
Honourable Mention: Starfield (PC, Xbox)

zelda tears of the kingdom switch nintendo alan wake 2 starfield highland song playstation pc console game of the year 2023

First let me preface: 2023 was an absurd year for gaming. One of the best single years I can ever recall, in terms of releases. This was the year that all the delayed and postponed games of 2020, 2021 and 2022 finally saw release. The result is a year that was so ridiculously stocked with significant games, that barely a week went by without some major release. So before I announce this year's winners, I would like to give a shout out to all the incredible games that, in another year, would surely have made the podium or even taken the top prize. Games such as Baldur's Gate III, Octopath Traveler II, Hogwarts Legacy, Seasons, Final Fantasy XVI, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, The Pale Beyond, Oxenfree 2, and Spider-Man 2. Just listing those out really hits home at how remarkable this year was for gaming.

With that said, let's get to this year's winner. Even with the incredible array of titles released in 2023, one game still managed to stand out for me. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom represents one of gaming's great developers at their absolute pinnacle. A title which takes the formula of a game widely considered one of the greatest of all time, and makes it even better, even more brilliant. It's a title that puts barely a foot wrong anywhere, a landmark title against which all open world games should be measured.

As for a runner up, this was a tricky one - and again to all those I mentioned in the first paragraph, I really feel for you, you were all very worthy of a mention here. Ultimately, I award second place to Alan Wake 2. The first game in this series, released some thirteen years ago following a notoriously difficult and protracted development, was a flawed, but brilliant psychological horror game that stood out most for its (at the time) revolutionary blending of multimedia formats: film, 3d graphics, literature, and its presentation which blurred the lines between all three. While a direct sequel has taken a fittingly long time to arrive, developers Remedy have spent the years building on this talent with their other titles, most recently 2019's Control, and with each release they just get better and better at it. The result is another masterful horror game, with impeccable presentation, brilliantly bonkers creativity, and some of the best atmosphere I have ever seen created in a game.

For third place, A Highland Song. In contrast to the other, more prominent releases here, A Highland Song is the latest title from indie developer Inkle. A title of deceptive simplicity that reminds us that clever game design does not necessarily require a big team or budget. A beautiful and evocative title that puts players in the shoes of Moira McKinnon, a young girl running away from home to see her uncle at his lighthouse on the coast. Players navigate Moira through a series of highland vistas, stunningly rendered in watercolour style, in a game focused on exploration and (minimal) puzzle solving. This title is an absolute treat for the senses, but while the surface quality may dazzle initially, what ultimately shines from this game is the clever design. This is a title built with replayability in mind. Each subsequent playthrough allows you to keep all of the items and maps that you have found, meaning that you are constantly finding new routes, new stories. Gradually you will find that you do, in fact, learn these hills like the back of your hand. It's a sublime example of exploration gameplay at its best and most organic.

And because I still haven't spent enough time talking about videogames, I want to make one special shout out for Bethesda's new RPG Starfield. There are few treats in gaming that compare to a new Bethesda open-world RPG, and while Starfield is clearly a flawed title, it still contains that trademark magic. For all its problems, this is ultimately the game that I spent the most time playing in 2023, and a title that will continue to get better and better through expansions and modding. That merits a special mention, even if its flaws out of the box are too noticeable for me to reasonably give it a top three position.

17. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Ambr

ambr wellbeing startup company of the year 2023

For me, well-being and mental health could well be the new killer app. This is, or should be at the forefront of all good companies' thinking in 2024 and I can see it becoming a massive area for new business. One such business to emerge in 2023 is Ambr, a new app that empowers individuals to take control of their mental health through daily mindfulness and meditation practices. What sets Ambr apart is its personalized approach, tailoring meditation recommendations based on user feedback and progress. With its soothing visuals, calming sounds, and a library of resources to enhance mental resilience, Ambr serves as a valuable companion on the journey to inner peace and mindfulness in the digital age.


18. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Erling Haaland - Manchester City

erling haaland manchester city best footballer player in the world football 2023

This was not a difficult prize to award. Erling Haaland is the best player in the world right now, and he has had the standout season to boot, scoring a record 36 goals in his debut Premier League season whilst winning a historic first ever treble for Manchester City. It's difficult to draw conclusions so early in a player's career, but right now there is no indication that Haaland is going to slow down. Still just 23 years old, it seems pretty likely that Haaland will be a player that dominates world football for the foreseeable future.

19. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Jude Bellingham - Real Madrid

jude bellingham real madrid england best young footballer player in the world 2023

But Haaland won't be alone in the footballing firmament of the 2020s and 2030s, and one player who might well be joining him is Jude Bellingham, this summer's new signing for Real Madrid. Bellingham is a player who has drawn a considerable amount of hype over the past few years, despite having only just turned 20. But few could have imagined the instant impact he would have at Madrid, with 17 goals scored in his first 21 games. It's an astonishing outlay for any midfield player, much less one so young arriving at such a massive football club. Bellingham is the real deal and is likely to be a star for years to come.

20. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Unai Emery - Aston Villa

best football manager in the world 2023 unai emery

In a year where the managers at more prominent clubs either lived up to lofty expectations or, in some cases, failed spectacularly to do so, there are a few names from the less expected clubs that manage to stand out. Aston Villa manager Unai Emery is perhaps the manager who has most seen his stock rise in 2023. Little was expected of the man who flopped at Arsenal, taking over a club near the bottom of the Premier League table, but his transformation has been instantaneous. 

Since joining at the tail end of last season, Emery's side rose from the foot of the table to Europa League qualification. This season has been even more remarkable. Half-way through the season and Aston Villa find themselves in third place, just one point off the top spot. That they are contenders for the top four seems obvious now, but at this point you'd have to consider them also potential title challengers.

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

football club of the year 2023 manchester city

It is difficult to award this prize to anyone other than Manchester City in a year where they have achieved that rarest and most highly acclaimed of feats, the treble. Last season saw the Citizens win the Premier League title, FA Cup and the Champions League. It would be easy to dismiss this as simply a par performance from a club with near limitless finances. But as other clubs have proven, there is much more to success than just spending money. You need to spend it in the right way and City have consistently done so. It's not just about signing the right players, it's about putting in place the right infrastructure, facilities, youth set up, coaching. Manchester City have done it all right, and this, not just the money, is the reason why they are the best football team on the planet right now.

Current Events

22. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Hakeem Jeffries

hakeem jeffries politician of the year 2023

For a moment I considered going a bit farther afield for this prize this year. I could have mentioned Olaf Scholz, navigating his way through perhaps the trickiest political circumstances in Europe, or Albanese's popularity in Australia, or Kishida's resurgent Japan. But in 2023, I truly think Hakeem Jeffries needs commendation for his leadership of the Democratic minority in the House of Representatives. 

Not only did Jeffries lead his party to a historic overperformance in the 2022 midterms, but under his leadership the party has continued to overperform in the off-year elections in spite of an incumbent President with mixed popularity. Add to this his ability to operate and maintain the dignity of his caucus amid the unprecedented chaos of the House Republican leadership, that constantly changing, childishly infighting leadership, and you really have to give him credit. Increasingly likely to take the gavel after next year's elections, Jeffries' reputation has seen quite the rise over the past 12 months.

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

biggest political scandal 2023 trump prosecution criminal charge indictment conviction traitor

It couldn't really be anything other than this, could it? A President of the United States had never been criminally indicted prior to 2023. Now it has happened 91 times. In the past year, Trump has been criminally indicted for multiple counts of financial fraud in New York, electoral fraud in Georgia, and Federally for stealing and hiding classified documents and for conspiring to rig an election. 

I feel like we've become so desensitized to his scandals and obscenities that news like this has a tendency to wash over us. So take a moment to step back and absorb these facts, that the former President of the United States is facing criminal charges for the highest and most serious of crimes, crimes that could see him locked up for the rest of his life. It's going to be a busy few years of these historic criminal trials, the likes of which have never been seen. You thought the last few years were crazy? Buckle up.

24. The Debbie for Cause of the Year
Winner: Responsible Use of AI

responsible use of ai artificial intelligence displacement disruption privacy ethical most important issue 2023

The use of Artificial Intelligence has been one of the hot topics of technology for the past several years. Discourse can vary from the sober to the very alarmist and even scaremongering. Now, I am not one of those who fears that AI is going to end the world, or even that it's going to take all our jobs and plunge the world into an era of poverty and servitude. I think it is a tool like any other that will revolutionise how we do things, and reshape our idea of productivity and work for the better. However, what I will agree is vitally important, and what should be the greatest focus of the AI discussion, is how to use this technology responsibly. 

Deep fakes, revenge porn, political propaganda. This technology is becoming so powerful that it's increasingly difficult to tell the real from fake. Figuring out how to manage this will require a great undertaking. I don't know if it will require regulations or restrictions on the technology (in my opinion, trying to put the genie back in the bottle is futile, someone will find a way around), or a greater education effort to help people understand that they can't necessarily trust what they see any more. I'm not worried about our robot overlords taking over the world, I'm worried about regular shitty people using the technology in a way that detriments others.

25. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: Jack Smith

jack smith person of the year 2023

Sometimes a great man is not the person who makes a great noise or shakes the world, but merely someone who does great things without fuss. The last several years have not been kind to the rule of law in the United States, or the reputation of the nation's institutions. At every turn, they have failed to bring justice to obvious unlawfulness. As a nation we just assumed that flagrant corruption and criminality in the highest ranks of government couldn't happen here, because our institutions would be too strong, too clever to allow it. That this failed to happen has shaken the national confidence in a profound way that I don't think has been truly appreciated yet. 

Step up Jack Smith, the right man at the right time. Smith has quietly, diligently and professionally executed his duties as the special prosecutor in charge of the Donald Trump investigations. He has worked without giving in to political pressure from both sides, guided by the very simple notion to uphold the rule of law to the letter. In doing so, he shattered the malaise that had begun to set, the nihilistic view of institutional weakness, of defeatism that we were powerless to right the wrongs in our country. He has proven to us that the institutions still work, and that in this country "right" still matters.

Social & Lifestyle

26. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Weisses Rössli

weisses rossli zurich best restaurant 2023

I award this year's best restaurant Debbie to the gem of Zurich's culinary scene, Weisses Rössli. In a town where restaurants often veer between very simple traditional fare, and over-the-top extravagance for the Zurcher 1%, Weisses Rössli gets it absolutely right. This is honest, Swiss cuisine, but executed to an outstandingly high level of quality. 

The food is both beautiful and delicious. Our meal included a coconut pumpkin soup that was among the tastiest things I've eaten all year, a perfectly cooked venison with chestnuts, and a mascarpone mousse for dessert that was almost too pretty to eat. The wine list is also excellent. The Barbera I had was so deep and dark you could sink into it, like being kissed by a decadent velvet sofa. Yeah, I'm going back here, and I need to find where I can get a few bottles of that Barbera.

27. The Debbie for New Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: De Juwelier

de juwelier amsterdam best new restaurant 2023

The newest venture from Amsterdam's celebrated two Michelin star restaurant Restaurant 212, De Juwelier is an intimate affair, with just a few tables and some bar-seating, but a menu no less ambitious. De Juwelier's thing is using every bit of the animal. Suffice it to say, if you are a vegetarian, this isn't the place for you - having said that, their mushroom soup was delicious. The restaurant's signature dish is a mushroom bone marrow dish served in the bone. While the food may be a touch adventurous for some, it is completely unpretentious, cosy, and absolutely delicious. A real gem on the canals. 

28. The Debbie for Club/Bar of the Year 
Winner: The Bell

the bell pub langford best bar club nightclub 2023

There's few things as great as a classic English country pub, and The Bell in Langford is as close to the quintessential experience as you will find. A historic building in picturesque Oxfordshire building. Warm, cosy interiors, crackling fireplaces, serene garden seating. The fact that it is home to a highly acclaimed restaurant only sweetens the deal. The Cotswolds are home to some of the finest pubs in the world, but The Bell still manages to stand out as a jewel in the English countryside.

29. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: Mauritius

mauritius best holiday destination 2023

2023 was a year for far-flung adventure. Swimming with the dolphins, hiking through the rainforests, haggling in the local markets. Or if you're like me, reclining on the beach with ceviche, fresh fruit and a cocktail. Mauritius, set in the heart of the Indian Ocean, is renowned for its breathtaking beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters, lush, mountainous interiors, and vibrant coral reefs. What sets Mauritius apart is its unique blend of cultures - a fusion of African, Indian, European, and Asian influences - that is reflected in its cuisine, music, and festivals, providing a truly multicultural experience. Additionally, the island has made significant strides in sustainable tourism, ensuring that its natural wonders are preserved for future generations. 

30. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Boeri Barbera d'Asti DOCG Superiore Pörlapà

red wine boeri barbera d'asti docg superiore porlapa best wine 2023

I've already touched on this within the Weisses Rössli review above, but the Boeri Barbera d'Asti DOCG Superiore Pörlapà is about a gloriously decadent a red wine as you will ever sip. Impossibly deep and dark, velvety smooth, surrounding you like a plush velvet armchair. Senses of leather, oak, and clay of the deepest caves. Calms the soul. Probably cures disease. A truly exceptional wine experience. 

31. The Debbie for Tipple of the Year 
Winner: Rushen Cottage Sloe Port

best tipple liquor alcohol 2023 rushen cottage homemade sloe port

And finally our award for best tipple, we're looking close to home. That's right, the best drink I've had the pleasure to sup in 2023 is the sloe port hand-crafted right here in Rushen Cottage. Sloe is a slow process that takes place over several months. Combining the leftover sloe berries (after making sloe gin) with red wine, sugar and brandy for fortification, results in a delightful port with the smooth taste of a mellow honey. A perfect way to close out an evening, and I still have a few bottles.

Well there you have it, another year in the books. Here's to 2024 being a year of peace, good health, and further progress. See you there!

Newer Post Older Post Home