Time for another roundup of the best stuff from a year ago...
Guided Tour - recommended posts from the 4th quarter of 2011
1) A very poignant anniversary - 5th October 2011
A tribute to my favourite writer (and the very first of my 'Unsuitable Role Models'), Brian O'Nolan, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.
2) The worst of it is... - 6th October 2011
A bitter bon mot born of a long spell of self-imposed abstinence from alcohol.
3) I want one of those - 8th October 2011
A video of musician Brad Barr playing a wondrous custom guitar fashioned out of a metal fishing-tackle box. [Hat-tip to my old blog-friend JES for introducing me to this marvel.]
4) The simple life - 11th October 2011
I reminisce fondly about my recent holiday experience, drinking in smalltown China.
5) A Great Driving-The-Blues-Away Song - 15th October 2011
Father Ted taught us that the Theme From Shaft is one of the most effective pieces of music for banishing depression. I include a link to a great live performance by its creator, Isaac Hayes, and for an embedded video I chose the - even better! - version by the utterly fabulous Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
6) You'll Never Know - 21st October 2011
Another entry in my 'Great Love Songs' series, with renditions on video from Ella Fitzgerald and the actress Alice Faye, who gave this moving wartime song its debut in the film Hello Frisco, Hello (unfortunately, this clip appears to have been recently removed from YouTube; I'll have to try and find a replacement).
7) Little bits of heaven - 25th October 2011
Some classic Irish pub interiors (some of which I've visited) - from an online poll to find Ireland's best snug bar being run by the Powers whiskey company.
8) My Top Five Birthdays (in China) - 27th October 2011
One week on from my latest birthday party, I reviewed the most memorable of the celebrations of the event I've enjoyed over the past decade in Beijing.
9) Be careful what you order! - 28th October 2011
I resurrect an old travel piece about one of the things you should avoid in Jamaica.
10) A moment of cognitive dissonance - 5th November 2011
Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now - sung in Khmer (from the film City of Ghosts).
11) HBH 259 - 11th November 2011
I worry that advancing age may be starting to impair my enjoyment of fine whisky.
12) The Top Five Lost Laowai Landmarks - 12th November 2011
The things we older expats most miss from the vanished Beijing of the early Noughties.
13) Another trivia quiz idea - 16th November 2011
In my quest for a novel quiz format, I come up with the brilliantly-appropriate-for-China idea of bribing the quizmaster.
14) Sometimes this is how it feels - 23rd November 2011
I find a cartoon that encapsulates my current mood all too aptly.
15) Great Love Songs (29) - 26th November 2011
My favourite blues guitarist, Peter Green of the original Fleetwood Mac, performs Need Your Love So Bad.
16) Top Five Lamented Music Bars - 29th November 2011
A rundown of the best live music venues in Beijing that have ceased to be in the last decade.
17) Great Love Songs (30) - 3rd December 2011
The Cowboy Junkies cover Bob Dylan's If You Gotta Go, Go Now.
18) 'Bye to The Bone? - 6th December 2011
Sad news - Beijing's favourite laowai party rockers, Black Cat Bone, announce their retirement. As a reminder of all the good times they gave us, I dig out a clip of them rocking out at a blues harp convention in Jianghu some years ago.
19) Top Five Nearly But Not Quites - 10th December 2011
As the time draws near for my traditional year-end Bar Awards, I post a preparatory discussion of some of the more interesting recent additions to the scene (quite a lot of overlap with this later post on the year's 'new arrivals') - places that many folks might nominate as a 'Bar of the Year', but which I feel aren't quite cutting it.
20) Why I'll probably NEVER go to Blue Frog again - 13th December 2011
A particularly hellish experience persuades me to finally renounce Beijing's most overrated burger restaurant.
21) See what you missed! - 17th December 2011
I was lucky enough to catch the 'Gig of the Year' at CD Blues Café (it had been almost completely unadvertised), a wonderful collection of jazz and blues musicians visiting from Chicago. The highlight was a blues guitarist called Junior Boy Jones. Here's a video of him in action.
22) A labour of love - 23rd December 2011
I anthologise my jazz music collection for the owner of my new favourite local bar.
23) Christmas (anti-)cheer - 24th December 2011
For the holiday I post Christmas Sucks, a blackly comic seasonal song performed in the style of Tom Waits and Bauhaus' Peter Murphy - an odd little treat from the splendidly named band, Porn Orchard.
24) The worst business card in the world? - 27th December 2011
I think so! Hideous design and completely illegible. Of course, it could only be for a Chinese bar.