Just in case you weren’t paying attention, these are the events, happenings and occasions that left a significant mark on me in 2013. I use some adult language, so beware.
- The Chelyabinsk meteor, which most know as “that fireball that soared through Russian skies,” scared the shit out of everyone when numerous videos of it blasting over a city emerged. From this incident we Westerners learned that a lot of people in Russia have dashcams to combat police corruption and insurance fraud. Huh. The incident also occurred at pretty much the same exact time we got terrifyingly close to being wiped out of existence by getting smashed into by a near-earth asteroid (the two space projectiles were likely related, contrary to initial reports). Petrified by what we saw on screen and what could be looming overhead, we collectively reassured ourselves. “Oh, our government surely has a plan in place for if and when something like that happens. All of the agencies that oversee these sorts of incidents must be fully funded and we’ll just shoot it out of the sky or whatever, right?” And then TMZ reported that Rihanna got a bunch of pot for Valentine’s Day and then someone needed to be shamed on Twitter for some stupid thing they did. By the time it became clear that no, we have no proper defense against asteroid impact due in part to NASA being woefully underfunded, we had totally forgotten that we were ever concerned with said threat.
- Don’t get too worried, though. Our universe probably just a hologram anyway.
- Speaking of the Universe, space, and other things that people talk about when they stoned (or scientists, I guess), The Voyager reached interstellar space! Have you ever heard the sounds that we engraved on a gold record and sent out into space for aliens that happen upon the Voyager and have the capacity to spin gold records? Also, if you haven’t heard some of the sounds that NASA has recorded from the Voyager’s travels throughout our Solar System, you can hear some of those here.
- After the show’s 10 year hiatus, Netflix brought Arrested Development back from the dead. The move said a lot about the power of fan demand and where the concept of television broadcast and related formats are going. The fate of television shows is no longer determined exclusively by networks, and television shows are no longer given life exclusively by said networks. In other show related news, the trend of there being too many great shows being produced at once to be able to keep track of it all continues, as indicated by the fact that I have still never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Justified, Girls, or any of the acclaimed shows that lived into 2013 let alone the many others that premiered this year. I did stick with Breaking Bad through to its satisfying conclusion, and, unfortunately, I was also one of otherwise rational people who stuck with The Office through to the end. I, like many others in my position, had hoped that the final episode would show Creed killing and eating everyone as part of some ritual sacrifice, and paying special, torturous attention to protagonist couple Jim and Pam so that I could vicariously enjoy a taste of the suffering their stupid, meandering, gratuitous storyline inflicted upon me. The joke was on me, though, for not quitting during the 5th or 6th season with all of the other right-minded viewers.
- Remember when last year, right before Christmas, a man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and shot and killed twenty very small children and six of their teachers? And nearly 9 in 10 Americans backed a federal law requiring background checks for all potential gun buyers and Congress still didn’t do a goddamn thing to pass a simple law that almost every citizen was in favor of? In other disappointing gun-related action, an ill-informed mob organized for the supposed purpose of gun rights advocacy clumsily channeled its wrath against the Bangor Daily News after the paper had issued a request for concealed carry permit holder data. The mob intimidated the organization into rescinding their request, an equally disappointing response on the part of my otherwise keen employer. Note: Whenever the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of gun legislation comes up in conversation, Chicago, a city that has relatively strict gun laws but still maintains a plague of gun violence is inevitably brought up by gun rights advocates. If you have not caught it already, check out This American Life‘s two part series on Harper High School, a year-long investigation of a school in Chicago plagued by modern gang life. The episode maintains agnosticism on the issue of gun violence, though it touches on it quite a bit, and is well worth the listen. It is one of the best audio productions to come out of 2013.
- Speaking of occasions in which Congress just did something in total defiance of what Americans actually wanted, everybody’s least favorite branch of the government shut itself down because a handful of Congresspeople didn’t like that President Obama and his beloved Communism—the kind of Communism where you take out all of the radical pieces of an idea and trade them for privately control as well as mechanisms created by the Heritage Foundation, of course—were getting their way with what they considered to be a broken healthcare law. These mavericks who bravely said “You know what, fuck what Americans think or want. We are going to save them from this stupid, broken, wasteful, costly law” ultimately cost $2.2 billion dollars and 120,000 private sector jobs according to a report by the Office of Management and Budget.
- Also, Detroit went bankrupt, leaving people who worked their whole lives for a pension (and threatening survivor benefits of families of fallen cops and firefighters) in the dust. And benefit programs were slashed again, and the sequester is still going on. BUT DON’T WORRY BECAUSE THE DOW IS OVER 16,000 SO RICH FOLKS APPEAR TO BE DOING JUST FINE.
- But back to the shutdown. You know, watching that whole thing go down I kept thinking, “Wait a second. Is the Democratic Party actually standing its ground and fighting this stupid thing and these stupid people? Are they actually not giving in to hostage-taking, which only ever moves the line of normalcy further to the far right? Are they actually standing up to this insanity and not buckling? Are they sticking to message? Is it possible that they will emerge as victors in this political crisis?” I mean, Obama has always been pretty okay at standing up to someone so long as thousands of miles and a fleet of drones stands between them, but he’s never been particularly good at standing up to anyone in Washington. But here he was, taking a bold stand against the ridiculousness responsible for the costly shutdown waged by supposed deficit hawks. And then the health exchange website launched and decimated any progress or momentum that the party gained—it arguably set them back a bit—and we were reminded that no, these are the same Democrats we have known all along. The 90s Red Sox Democrats who are pretty good at maintaining a fairly decent and exciting lead right up to the 9th inning before getting their asses handed right to them right before the game is over.
- That time that Russell Brand was kicked out of the GQ awards for reminding the audience that party sponsor Hugo Boss used to fabricate uniforms under the Nazis. His account of how things unfolded was just as beautiful: “The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them. They’re not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history.”
- In a similar vein to the proverb that the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing people that he didn’t exist, the greatest trick the low-level fascist ever played was convincing people that he was an incompetent shit. In the style of George W. Bush, LePage proves this to be true over and over again. The governor more or less proved that his tried and true tactic of being so boorish and insufferable that he exhausts even his most overzealous critics into inaction appears to continue to be somewhat effective. LePage has done a somewhat remarkable job of splitting his opposition into different directions by taking on a number of different issues throughout the year, from guns to a crisis he probably made up about “Welfare cheats” (you remember, of course, when he and his administration made up and sold the specter of voter fraud) to proposing to end assistance for asylum seekers. That he is standing by commissioner Mary Mayhew and the shittily run DHHS while singling out those he portends are defrauding the welfare system would have been shocking and offensive a year ago, but it has simply become par for the course with LePage, his administration and his supporters. “Don’t hold me accountable! You’re neighbor is robbing you blind food stamp by food stamp!” At the end of 2012 many realized that things would likely get a lot worse before they could get better. 2013 proved the theory to be correct.
- Speaking of the Governor’s office, Cutler and Michaud have officially entered the race. Michaud, of course, made a splash by revealing news about his sexuality, which a lot of straight people boldly analyzed to death. Cutler came out of the woodwork from whatever it is Cutler does when he is not running for Governor. Most recently it appears that he has been focusing on publishing
book-length campaign literaturea book.
- It was the year of shaming shamers and hating haters on social media, or as Heidi Moore described it in a Tweet, “Haters hating haters. It’s Twitter’s form of Inception.” When those on Twitter weren’t shaming, they were buying into sham stories about shaming haters, then learning about and being outraged by said sham, and then hating said sham shamer.
- Speaking of which, those three women were found in that basement they were imprisoned in for a decade and then everyone fell in love with the guy who came to their rescue immediately before there was backlash against him because it turns out he had his own record of being an abusive scoundrel (though, to be fair, not the sort who imprisons women in a basement for 10 years), because this is how the Internet works.
- This year in 3D printing? Ears! Next year? Running shoes made out regenerative material! This decade? Enough guns to make pretty much any legislation on firearms totally futile!
- This year in racism still existing pretty hard: Richie Incognito was a racist bully, apparently. That Brad Paisley song happened. Justine Sacco exists.
- And, of course, the Trayvon Martin verdict, to which I don’t have much more to offer outside of a variation of my friend Sam’s expressed outrage: By all intents and purposes, it appears as though it is now legal to hunt black kids in Florida.
- When DOMA was overturned, I cried alone in my hotel room because as much as I complain about and sardonically comment on a lot of the really heavy shit going on at the state, federal and global levels of government, these small but important steps toward a positive, humanist direction remain inspiring and beautiful.
- Edward Snowden released a cashe of documents that exposed how silly and over-reaching the NSA actually is, continuing the great digital tradition of liberating otherwise confidential data. Snowden was especially helpful in this fight in that he is only about a quarter as creepy as Julian Assange, and, of course, he revealed the fact that even though the government tells us over and over again that we are safe from being spied on, we are totally not safe from being spied on. And while President Obama welcomes the debate that wouldn’t have happened had said documents not been leaked, he and the government at large want Snowden behind bars for initiating the debate that he totally welcomes.
- While not necessarily big news for the country or the world, Marc Maron produced his 400th WTF podcast, and hit his 100 millionth download this year. Maron’s show is interesting because there are some better and more inventive podcasts out there, but nearly 5 years into the game he remains the face of success in the industry not only due to getting a TV deal out of his efforts and reviving his standup career, but because the tenor of his connection with his audience—at once endearing, hostile, venerable, aggressive, and a number of other oppositional descriptors—remains consistently engaging. For his 400th show (he is beyond 450 at this point), he interviewed Iggy Pop and while I am both a Pop and a Maron fan, I thought the interview was just okay. His interview with Mel Brooks from earlier this year is a thing of beauty, as is his chat with Natasha Lyonne (as well as his accompanying introduction, where he reveals that he has broken off his engagement with his fiancé Jessica). It’s real shit, not just for comedy lovers and self-obsessed neurotics like myself, but for people who know that life can be as messy as it can be beautiful, and that that is part of its magic.
- Some shit about Anthony Weiner because that guy definitely needs to be fueled by more public attention.
- The verdicts in the Steubenville rape case came down this year, and participants are still getting indicted for their involvement. The crime was grotesque, a girl got raped, the incident was recorded, and she didn’t learn about it the next day until she found out by encountering recordings of it that we circulating on social media. Bullying was involved, as were cover-up attempts on the part of the adults who were supposedly “in charge.” The case offered an eye-opening look into what rape culture looks like, how it can play into sports culture, and how terrifyingly large its breadth can envelop everything from the the perpetrators all the way up to those in positions of authority. The elements of the case specific to the age of digital media and online bullying made it all the more terrifying, as did comments made by CNN commentator Poppy Harlow, which were interpreted as being sympathetic to the rapists.
- After bombing the Boston Marathon and killing a cop, two kids had Boston on lock-down in a scene that felt like it was right out of the Boston crime noir film genre. They killed a bunch of people, and maimed a bunch more and, like, three minutes later Bostonians were like, “Suck it, assholes, we’re ready to run this shit again tomorrow if we have to” because that’s seriously how tough Bostonians are. Anyway, the wound was re-opened not long afterward when Rolling Stone—which still publishes a number of great journalists, though isn’t particularly relevant anymore—put the younger, prettier of the two kids the front cover looking a bit too rock star-ish as far as a lot of people were concerned. Everyone freaked the fuck out. The cover made him look human, and people weren’t comfortable with that. We Americans will only take our terrorists when they are portrayed to look like the baby-eating monsters that they are, thank you very much.
- I am not going to pretend that I know the whole story of Pope Francis. I have been paying attention to bits and pieces, but I have not done the due diligence to figure this guy out. On one hand, I like the idea of the things that I think he is saying, but I also agree with critics on the left who remind that, even though there is tempering of rhetoric, the church still maintains anti-choice, anti-gay views. I do like that he is consistently pointing a finger at larger, infrastructural evils in society rather than hyper-focusing on the ways that people live their lives, and that scrutiny of our accepted doctrines of economics play into that. Also, having grown up in a family that was heavily influenced by Catholicism, and having grown up with members of the family having worked for the Arch Diocese in Boston in the 90s—some of whom I remember defending the church during the era of surfacing molestation allegations—I always viewed the church putting Joseph Ratzinger someone who was soaked in allegations of wrong-doing during the church’s handling of the scandal, as a horrendous doubling down of criminal negligence. And worse, it felt like this giant, gaudy institution, and its disintegration under the weight of its own arrogance, was doing a real disservice to this otherwise beautiful concept of a loving God who sacrificed his son for the sins of his people. So when a pope comes along and looks at the church and acknowledges these things, these problems with the institution he is in charge of, it sort of feels good to watch unfold.
- Hugo Schwyzer had a pretty substantial breakdown on social media. Schwyzer is a controversial academic who had positioned himself as a feminist and had burned many bridges, particularly for his actions against other feminists, specifically women of color. He was also controversial because he had an alarming background with narcotics addiction and resultant almost homicidal abuse that he had fabricated a redemption story around. He had also garnered attention for accusations of sleeping with his students, which he had once admitted to but had since suggested he had reformed since his marriage to his wife and the birth of his daughter. Schwyzer had a manic episode on Twitter, where he admitted to many of the suspected ills about him in a stream-of-conscious confession. In truth, I didn’t learn of a lot of the accusations against Schwyzer until after the incident went down, and he is someone I followed on Twitter and occasionally engaged with and so I found it at once infuriating and disappointing to learn all of this while he was unraveling online. While scary and sad—not because of the impact on him, but because of the real-time reminder of the devastating force mental illness really can be—the incident was a necessary one as it exposed Schwyzer and the sum and impact of his ills, particularly the student communities and feminists of color he admitted to victimizing. Many who were negatively impacted by him throughout his career maintained a “good riddance, this is what you deserve,” attitude during and after the meltdown. I am fortunate to have become familiar with some of his detractors, who I have followed and kept up with since. The event also served as a reminder that in a world where many of us live much of our lives online, such episodes and occasions will increasingly become commonplace.
- Rest well, Mandela, who taught the world volumes about bravery and character, and in doing so reminded us that most of our leaders are shit. And James Gandolfini, the sometime gentle, sometimes sociopathic (on screen) giant. And the great, verbose, brilliant Roger Ebert. And Elmore Leonard and Peter O’Toole and cranky Doris Lessing and the incredible Marian McPartland. And you, Lou. And a lot of other great people who are very well worth mentioning, I am sure, but these are the people I feel occupy a little place in my heart.
Now what say you?