Overheated trends of 2012
Psy, quinoa, peplum . . . It was a case of too much is more than enough with some trends of 2012.
Bread? Croissant? Pasta? Take them away - nobody eats wheat any more these days, sweetie! Following in the simian footprints of our forebears, ancient diets that exclude processed or refined foods, and even ''post-industrial'' grains such as wheat, are all the rage. ''Paleo'' dieters eat only the foods that would have been available to Paleolithic man: vegetables, fruit, nuts and (cooked) meat. Primal dieters eat primarily raw meat. Not everyone is that stringent, of course, but you're simply not healthy these days unless you're cutting out something - whether it's sugar, milk, wheat, grains, fruit or things that start with the letter ''T''.
In the Cloud
''Clouds'' first appeared in 2011 but really took off this year, and now everyone has their life's work stored in these vast transcendent vessels. But what if your will to live is sapped by the thought of having to download the operating system that will talk to your phone, sync with your MP3 player and make love to your computer? And even if you do manage to ''put things in the Cloud'', does having unlimited music, movies and photos constantly available really make life better? Sure, it's a short-term salve for boredom and, used responsibly, is innocuous enough. But it also fosters dullness and device dependency, seen increasingly among rush-hour commuter zombies who, despite their corporate mien, now spend their mornings watching reruns of Being Lara Bingle instead of reading The Australian Financial Review.
Having a 'lifestyle'
It's hypocritical, but after complaining about these ''lifestyle trends'', we've realised that the most revolting trend of all is the overuse of the word ''lifestyle''. Used as a noun - for example, a ''healthy lifestyle'' - it's tolerable, but those who use it as an adjective should be slapped across the mouth. Particularly real estate agents: throughout the inner city, scores of identical-looking ''lifestyle apartments'' are being constructed and marketed. But it's impossible not to have a lifestyle, even if your home is a ''lifestyle caravan''! Of course, what they are really saying to us naive paupers is that these are ''better-than-your-lifestyle apartments'' and anyone who buys one will become super-cool and have oodles of sex.
Power to the peplum?
The fashion industry tried to sell us on the peplum this year - ''It's so flattering! The fabric hides wide hips!'' - but that's like telling people that if you go up a shoe size, your feet will look smaller. No. They. Won't. When you add a few metres of fabric to your hips, your waist might look tiny but your hips look as if you're smuggling Kim Kardashian through customs. At best, it's like a bit of wacky Edwardian costumery has found its way into your wardrobe; at worst, you look like a bedskirt. And it became its own language: I read a newspaper description of a skirt being ''peplummed''. Please, no.
Nailing it - not!
Then there were caviar nails, which look as if your nail polish has been coated in hundreds and thousands. Awesome if you're 15; tacky if you're not.
Life on the wedge
Finally, there were the Isabel Marant wedge sneakers, which sold for upwards of $600. Oh, what a bargain that was: instead of the comfort of regular trainers to which we've become accustomed, these have a sneaky hidden wedge inside the shoe, designed to give you a bit of extra height. Marant said the idea originated with a trick she'd do in her teens: stuffing her sneakers with cork to look taller. Lucky I'm not producing clothes based on my teen obsessions, or we'd all be in Olivia Newton-John Grease-inspired leggings.
What do you mean you're not eating chia? You still don't know how to say quinoa or acai? Haven't you had your spirulina today? The good old food pyramid starts to look blissfully straightforward when you realise the rules have changed and you're doing everything wrong. You're not organic enough or wholefood enough and you're basically a bad person for eating carbohydrates at all/after 2pm/on Wednesdays. I hope the whole activated almonds kerfuffle was the apotheosis and we can move back to eating a bit of this, a bit of that and being a bit more relaxed.
Sweet and salty
Savoury notes enliven and sharpen sweet tastes; grandma knew that when she added a pinch of salt to her shortbread. But in 2012, pastry chefs have gone too hard on the sweet-and-salty collisions. Think salted caramel ice-cream with chocolate fudge cake, salty peanut butter with cheesecake and, in a sure sign this trend has jumped the shark, salted caramel cup cakes and macarons. It's all good in moderation but turning up the salt also means ramping up the sugar, making for a superabundance of ''OMG! Amazing!'' before you realise you've drunk a vat of water and entered a diabetic coma.
Bar the bun
I'm as partial to a hamburger as any slavering drunk but I'm also pretty proud that I know how to eat with a knife and fork. Unfortunately, those fine motor skills deteriorated in 2012 because so much of my food was rolled, stuffed or wrapped. Let's keep the burgers, sliders and buns for bars and eat more grown-up food in restaurants.
The ubiquitous Inception Horn
Two years ago the trailers for Christopher Nolan's cerebral crime thriller Inception announced themselves with an otherworldly horn sound - basically ''BWAAAHHMM''. It was strikingly effective, and since then blockbuster after hopeful blockbuster has duplicated the effect, whether buffed and electronic (Prometheus), suggesting an alarm (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) or just pretty much the same (World War Z). Inception Horn, as it is known, has become a kind of shorthand for something very bad happening that's worth paying a ticket for, and bar Adam Sandler getting his hands on it, it couldn't be more overexposed.
Part of my cunning plan
This was the year that movie plot after movie plot revolved around the villain deliberately being caught and then unleashing mayhem within his captor's base of operations. It happened in The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and Skyfall, and if the same scenario occurs with that tiger in The Life of Pi it's going to be very annoying.
Longer is not better
Whether it's 3D or the presence of Daniel Day-Lewis, the movies are obsessed with distinguishing themselves from television, video games and social media. But in 2012 one unwanted distinction was films running long and undisciplined. Les Miserables runs for 158 minutes, Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming Django Unchained is 165 minutes, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes 169 minutes to unfold - that should be long enough for Bilbo to walk to the Lonely Mountain and back!
PSY's one-trick pony
Inevitably, Gangnam Style has been terrorising Christmas parties, wringing out every last bit of attention we had for this phenomenon. Korean pop crossed over in a big way thanks to PSY, who demonstrated himself to be a one-trick pony laughing all the way to the bank during his visit to Australia in October, disappointing many with his insubstantial live performances. What a surprise.
Wobbly bass lines
Dubstep infiltrated the mainstream in 2012, primarily in the US, due to it being in the throes of an ''EDM'' obsession (that's ''electronic dance music'', in case anyone - like the US - missed its arrival in the '90s). EDM has already hijacked hip-hop and refused to let it go. While the underground (Skrillex, winner of - sputter - three Grammys; SBTRKT; Magnetic Man) rose up and conquered, pop artists such as Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Usher and even Muse co-opted its wobbly bass lines - a sure sign dubstep has jumped the shark.
OK, we liked this one. R&B experienced a major renaissance in 2012, headliner Frank Ocean not only releasing the killer debut album channel ORANGE but also making headlines by admitting his first love was a man, dominating critics' year-end best-of lists and having indie bands queueing up to cover his songs. Future stars such as the Weekend and Miguel attracted plenty of attention.
The joy of sets
Set design is in a bit of a crisis. As shows get bigger, so do sets - MTC productions are starting to dwarf their actors - but once a certain tipping point is reached, the sets disappear entirely, to be replaced with gigantic video projections or LED screens. Hairspray did it well, and Jersey Boys just got away with it, but this year's juggernaut How To Train Your Dragon looked like a video game from 1998 beamed onto an IMAX screen. Live performance is about people, not pixels. At the other end of the spectrum you have tiny, no-budget productions that are all set and no substance. There are folks you've never heard of creating theatrical environments that would leave your jaw on the floor, but what they stage just doesn't achieve the same quality.
But really, the most off-putting feature of 2012's live performance scene came from the critics. Too many commentators seemed suddenly interested in making their own practice part of the public debate, blogging and tweeting and op-eding about the state of criticism, the ethics of the job and its future in a digital world. All this is of interest to a particular kind of person: a critic. Everyone else was left shrugging and wondering if there was anything on worth seeing.
The Nordic slaughterfest
The great Danish television police procedurals such as the first series of The Killing, The Eagle and, most recently, The Bridge are among the pinnacles of the mind's capacity to divert itself in the vicinity of murder. However, we are now at a stage, in the wake of Stieg Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo saga, where every detective who ever muttered ''ja'' or ''nej'' is being translated as if he or she were the reincarnation of Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler in one unholy being. Good on you if Henning Menkell or Jo Nesbo affect you like a long, cold drink, but we can get things a bit out of perspective with the Nordic slaughterfest.
The classic caper
Classics are a good thing; the very word proclaims it - which is part of the trouble. This year my old friend Michael Heyward has been a one-man archaeology team uncovering the lost ark of an Australian covenant. And fair enough, too - it's been very satisfying to write intros to things such as The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, an undoubted classic, or to Patrick White's Happy Valley, the maiden effort of a man who was himself a classic. But not every bit of entertaining rubbish worth a backward glance is a classic.
The random words of the great
Celebrity diaries and letters have the baleful, if interesting, quality of the famous person in question coming to resemble a favoured drug, the kind that will inevitably kill you. I've trudged through the stony precisions of Samuel Beckett, waded in the moody discontents of Richard Burton and the melancholy self-doubts and wry jokes of Susan Sontag. All because I was fascinated to be prying on the privacies of these legendary figures. It's an enthralling spectacle and, I suppose, a legitimate one. But there's the real risk of taking the captivation of a name and using it as a screen on which to publish trivia and intimacies that take the place of real writing. Almost as if literature were moving in the direction of Twitter.
In what was generally an excellent year for television, and Australian television in particular, there was one very unwelcome development: the rise of local ''dramality''. We blame Jersey Shore - and maybe the Kardashians - for inspiring local networks to try their hand at home-grown versions of these ''soft-scripted'' fly-on-the-wall series: Being Lara Bingle, The Shire, WAG Nation, Brynne: My Bedazzled Life.
Like their progenitors, all these series involved hours spent with people who weren't even slightly interesting doing not very much. Why anyone thought that would make engaging television remains a mystery. Perhaps they'd never actually watched Jersey Shore or Keeping Up with the Kardashians; or realised all these shows screen on cable, not network, television; or that there are dozens and dozens of variants, and only two have made any kind of cultural impact at all, and that impact has been to generate almost universal scorn.
All these shows managed to do - apart from setting fire to innumerable $100 notes that could surely have been better employed elsewhere - was give air time to a bunch of vacuous narcissists. The good news is that while Brynne managed modest ratings, the rest absolutely bombed. The bad news? Foxtel is already casting for The Real Housewives of Australia.
You can't fake this
Recently, British travel magazine Wanderlust published a list of 13 ''overrated tourist traps''. Among the attractions you should ''simply avoid'' are Stonehenge, the Colosseum, the Great Wall of China and the Louvre. Why? Because one ought to ''soak up as much of the real, local culture'' as possible, according to the mag.
Oh, please. Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's not ''real''. Likewise, everything outside the mainstream does not automatically qualify as ''authentic''.
Unfortunately, this breathtakingly pretentious attitude infected nearly all aspects of life in 2012. People continued to boast about ''not watching commercial TV''. They adorned themselves in tattoos, beards and piercings to appear ''unique'' … in a conformist kind of way. And ordering a cup of coffee somehow became a default test of character. (One wrong move - such as requesting skimmed milk - and you get sneered at by a ridiculously attired barista whom you just ache to push out of a high window.)
Even our efforts to save the environment were not immune. One study found that 100 per cent of people who show off about not driving a car are planning an international trip within the next 12 months, the carbon footprint of which will vastly exceed the annual fossil fuel consumption of your average McMansion resident.
It's time to put an end to this madness. Let's make 2013 the Year of Not Turning Every Trivial Thing into a Contest of Credibility.