Ten years of blogging: 2004

2004 was the last year of my blog being on Blogger. I’d talked about moving it to Movable Type – and you can find out how long someone’s been blogging by asking if they remember Movable Type – during 2003, but found that didn’t work on my hosting company, but eventually at the end of the year decided it was time to try this new WordPress service they were offering. As for the blog itself, it just carried on as it had done during 2003.

New Year’s Day started with me discussing the end of the world, and the prophecies that said it might occur during 2004. Like all the predictions since, none of them came true.

I proved that a rice researcher in Australia wasn’t Britain’s Real Monarch, whatever Channel 4 might say, and flush with this success, went on to predict that Wesley Clark would be the Democratic Presidential candidate that year.

A Lib Dem blogger quit because of the inaccurate vitriol being dumped on the party by online commenters. Again, this was back in 2004, but includes the quote “political blogs are just Usenet flamewars with nicer layouts”.

Meanwhile, the Government was getting in trouble over introducing university fees they’d promised not to. Oddly, Nick Clegg wasn’t a MP then, and Labour were in Government.

Following my lead from the year before, The Sun confidently predicted that Alexander Armstrong was the new permanent host of Have I Got News For You. That guest hosts fad had obviously worn very thin by then.

I marked my first anniversary with a new look, and somehow got nominated for a Guardian Weblog Award thanks to my “non-extreme common sense that is rare in the world of frothing-at-the-mouth bloggers”.

From the looks of it, I blogged less in 2004 – this may or may not be related to the telling off I got for doing it at work – and much of it was about American politics, which seemed vastly interesting then, but not so much now. I did write this piece, which I think is good, to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks.

Reviewing the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials at the NT, I noted how good Anna Maxwell Martin and Dominic Cooper were in the leads. Luckily, my prediction curse didn’t kick in, and they’ve gone on to have good careers. (I also recall Ben Whishaw being in HDM, but not whether it was that year or when I saw it again in 2005)

For reasons that seemed a good idea at the time, I started writing regular reviews of Formula 1 races in 2004. F1 rewarded me with one of the most boring seasons in living memory as Michael Schumacher ground everyone into the dust and processed to the world title.

Bloggers Against Fascism was a campaign in the run-up to the 2004 elections that had me in agreement with the blogosphere’s leading Tory Boy. I’d say pretty much the same today as I said in that post too.

Shortly after that, the Atocha bombings didn’t stop me wanting to go to Spain. A few days later, certain idiot blowhards decided that the Spanish weren’t firm enough in the face of terrorism when they threw out their government, so I gave my response.

There was a minor flurry of interest over the identity of blogger ‘Belle De Jour’ which I tried to shine a light on. What I now wonder is whether the Sarah Champion who was falsely believed to be her is the same one who’s now MP for Rotherham? She definitely wasn’t Belle de Jour, anyway.

Doctor Who poked in again, and my response to Christopher Eccleston being announced as the Doctor was ‘wow’.

And to save me the trouble of ever having to write them again, here are two long posts I wrote on why Single Transferable Vote is the best electoral system.

I managed to spot Batman Begins being filmed on the streets of London. However, it was far too long ago for my phone to have a camera on it to record the moment.

One thing that was harder back then was starting off campaigns, even spoof ones. Today you just need to tweet something with the right hashtag and everyone retweets and laughs along. Back then, you not only had to write a post about it, you had to follow it up, even for a pretty weak idea.

Here’s a minor campaign that actually had some success. National Express created the brand ‘One’ for the Greater Anglia services. I wrote about how this caused trouble with the station announcements, and before long ‘One’ disappeared as a brand.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get sent it, but this was surely the best Nigerian 419 scam email ever.

And both me and Anthony Wells underestimated the electoral power of UKIP in 2004.

Some of you may not have heard the tale of early-20th century Liberal MP Trebitsch Lincoln, but you should know about it, if only to realise that Lembit Opik is a long way from winning any ‘most eccentric Liberal MP’ titles.

I exclusively published Michael Grade’s first message to BBC staff as the new chairman – mainly because there were so few bloggers at the time, I was the only one who worked at the BBC.

I linked to what must have been one of Alex Harrowell’s very first posts about Viktor Bout.

Proof that blogs used to be funnier than they are now. Or maybe reality was just easier to mock before we knew we had years more of it to come.

Meanwhile, Bob Russell was asking Tony Blair about Saddam Hussein. Tony Blair reminded us that Saddam Hussein was a bad bad man, but didn’t answer the question.

I started thinking about theology in the middle of the night and I may have explained the entire universe. Or just written down some dribble about God and Alanis Morrissette.

The English Democrats still seem quasi-fascist to me, just as they did to Chris Lightfoot back then. Another long story begins. He also perfectly described libertarianism.

This post was about getting a friend of mine elected to Swansea Council as a Lib Dem. Two years later, he joined the Tories.

The other problem with nostalgic looking back at posts is that you get reminded just how cheap things were in the past. £15.90 for a return to London from Colchester?

And yes, Tom Watson has made a great name for himself as the scourge of Rupert Murdoch and a valiant campaigner against press corruption etc etc but there was a time when he was the incarnation of a partisan Labour hack who proposed some very nasty policies. But then, he was being persecuted by fish at the time, which may have led to him being removed from his election co-ordination role, though he did inspire the Comical Tommy parody site, which still exists.

And if you ever forgot just why New Labour’s control freakery annoyed so much, here’s a good reminder and here’s another one.

If nothing else, this exercise has reminded me that I need to listen to Why Bother? and read Tragically I Was An Only Twin again.

Was it really that long ago that Brian Clough died? ‘Neither Venables nor Hoddle but international Cloughism!’

In 2004, we thought Iain Duncan Smith was irrelevant. Now he seems to be using the arguments in the survey I mentioned there as justification for government policy.

I did have a copy of The Orange Book when it came out and started writing a chapter-by-chapter review of it. Then I got bored and thought it wouldn’t be that relevant. In years to come people will point to this blog as an example of something, won’t they?

There was a time when phrases like ‘extraordinary rendition‘ weren’t in common usage and had to be explained. Sometimes, I think it might be nice to go back there.

Here’s a nice collection of links and quotes about Conrad Russell following his death.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout the archive is my tendency to say ‘that gives me an idea which I’ll write about later’ and then never do. I would like to apologise to everyone still reading here waiting to find out what project I was talking about here, because I have no idea what it might have been.

For once, this prediction held true, though it finally went wrong in 2010. Looks like normal service may be resumed for the 2015 election, though.

And here’s my first mention of Barack Obama, just about the same time every one else noticed him as well. I did say he was potentially the first black US President though.

‘What was the internet like in 2004, Daddy?’ ‘It was horrible, honey, many people didn’t even have tabbed browsers.’

Still, we’ll always have the memory of someone tipping a bucket of slurry over Robert Kilroy-Silk. For those of you who don’t remember the politics of 2004, I’m not going to try to explain Kilroy. You’d just think we were all mad.

And with that, I finished up with Blogger and switched to WordPress. Unfortunately, thanks to a cock-up with my original hosts a while later, I lost a lot of my early WordPress posts, and they’re now only visible through the Wayback Machine.

But with that, we’re through the ‘post incredibly frequently’ stage of my blogging career, so the remaining retrospectives should be a lot shorter.

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