2014 started, as most years do, with a bang. Several bangs in fact, as the firework displays went off around the world. That was immediately followed by the howls of those who were too drunk to realise exactly what they were celebrating but “Oh, look at the pretty lights in the sky.”
It was an odd year, to say the least. People were Happy with Pharrel, Flappy with rage, scared of Ebola, and wondering which countries would suddenly find themselves at war next. Planes went missing (Aliens, I’m telling you!) while others were shot down. People poured buckets of ice water over themselves so that they didn’t have to donate to ALS, all the while patting themselves on their suddenly cold backs that they were raising awareness. In tragic health news, all but one of the patients who had been cured of AIDS died this year as the disease returned to them.
It was the year we laughed at a humanoid horse and then were sadly moved as he reflected on a life that could have been (that damn doe – sniffle). The year that a woman couldn’t get a job teaching because all Irish are alcoholics. The year that Isis, a group that Al Queda thinks are extreme, rose. Seriously, when the people who have no problem killing over a hundred schoolkids in an attack and who have become a household name for terrorism worldwide think you’re extreme, chances are you’re not one of the good guys.
On the subject of villains, this was the year that Justin Bieber went so far in his quest to show the world that he’s a bad little girl, that Americans voted in droves to have him deported back to his native Canada. Canada, upon hearing this, let the world know in no uncertain terms that they didn’t want it back. This was also the year that the genetic stock of the British royal family was called into question and the Queen started looking at other thrones to take.
Over in the US, flames rocked cities that rioted due to a perceived culture of racism in the police. It’s no surprise as we’ve been hearing about unarmed black men being shot by cops all through the year. However, that hasn’t been the whole story in a lot of these cases. I’ve noticed a trend in the media where they run headlines such as “Cop Kills Unarmed Black Man” and worse, followed by stories where the cop actually had no choice in the matter. That was the actual headline on the tale of the drug dealer who was known to carry a weapon (it was actually in his car at the time), fled from cops, fought the one who caught up to him and the fight burst through the door of a flat where two young children were suddenly in the firing line. But, of course, that doesn’t sell as many papers as making it sound racist does. They’re fanning the flames of a race war simply to sell ad apace at higher prices.
Now, I’m not saying that there are no racist cops, or that every single case over in the US has the cop in the right. Far from it as I’ve seen some truly tragic cases that shouldn’t have occurred. What I’m saying is that the media has made sure that things seem more unbalanced than they actually are. Cases like the Rumain Brisbon case I mentioned above are being reported as if a cop was victimising a guy for being black, and not trying to protect two children from being shot by a drug dealer who is showing himself as violent and simply forgot to bring his gun out of his car this one time. On top of that, the media has all but buried the cases of unarmed white guys being killed by black cops, has not named those cops in the same ways it has in the race reversed cases and is exacerbating a very real feeling of “us versus them” by their actions. Perhaps if we lived in a world with less sensationalist reporting, the slogan on the banner in the image above would simply read “All Lives Matter”, and maybe it wouldn’t be right next to a spray-painted “Kill Cops”.
Of course, maybe I’m over complicating things here. Maybe it has nothing to do with rising racial tensions fanned by a media who knows that nothing makes them money as much as appealing to outrage. Maybe something simpler started the riots.
Can you believe we still live in a world where that is thought about two people who love each other? Sadly, I can. Russia, under fire from most of the world, reluctantly allowed gay people to come to the Olympics this year but warned them to stay away from their kids, showing they don’t actually know what it is they were banning in the first place. Now, I know there are those who will point with their non-evolved opposable thumbs to the Bible and say that “Jesus loves the whores but hates the fags!”, but do try to remember that this is a book that says any linen touched by a women on her period must be burned for it is unclean, and any woman who has sex before marriage must be killed. Basically the whole book looked down on all the begatting that took place in the earlier parts of it and seemed to have a problem with anything that could contain a penis (worryingly including shellfish), which is bad news for this kid.
From racial tension and begatting up the wazoo (which is what they have a problem with, I think) to something a little more strange. This was the year that a man tried to gain $10 via crowdfunding so that he could make some potato salad and ended up with over $50,000. Shocked at how much money he’d ended up with, he used the money to make his potato salad and then set the rest up in an ongoing fund that will help projects to feed the homeless in years to come. An amazing outcome from something that should only have been a silly bit of fun.
On the subject of silly bits of fun, did anyone else see the Columbian Womens Cycling Team and their new uniforms? Call me needlessly pedantic, but if I was designing something for a national team I’d have someone else just quickly look at it to see if there’s anything I’d missed. You know, just some way of looking at my product that I hadn’t considered…
It never ceases to amaze me how hypocritical we are as a species. The image above made so many of us laugh and yet, when a man wore a shirt that was decorated with images of scantily clad cartoon women, the internet was out for blood. Dr. Matt Taylor was one of the people responsible for landing a probe on a live comet for the first time in our history. He was elated to be part of that and was shown on television reports wearing the following shirt. This was immediately painted as an attack against women and the poor man was forced to apologise on television, during which he broke down in tears.
Meanwhile the comet mission wasn’t given as much publicity as you’d think it would get. You see, some fat arsed girl called Kim Kardashian had decided to “break the internet” by posing completely naked and putting a photo of that arse on the front page was apparently more important than such an amazing scientific breakthrough. Somehow she wasn’t forced to apologise for her nudity and its attack on women, men and anyone with eyes (I’m sure you’ll all be thankful that I’m not including that in the images for this post.). Instead there were some who said it was a step forward for female empowerment.
Like I said, hypocritical. And the shirt that caused such a ruckus and criminalised this scientist? Yeah, it’s just so awful isn’t it? I can see how that became the issue rather than the great scientific achievement in the year that Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj sang the female empowerment anthem Bang Bang. Like I said, hypocrites.
In sadder news, this was also the year that we said goodbye to Robin Williams. Tormented, as many funny men are, for so many years, Robin finally took his own life. For weeks we waited for the autopsy and, when the results were in, breathed a sigh of relief when we learned his hard earned sobriety was intact at the moment of his death.
It was tragic and yet, like so much of Williams work, something unexpected happened. We’d been living for so long in a world where the vocal majority considered suicide victims as “cowards” and, all of a sudden, a mature dialogue was opened about depression in ways that hadn’t been possible before. It seems fitting to me that someone so tortured who has brought joy to so many people should, in his last act, set something so wonderful in motion.
Of course, Robin Williams wasn’t the only one to die this year. We saw some particularly moving tributes to Harold Ramis after we lost quarter of the Ghostbusters as well. Joan Rivers, in a move that somehow still didn’t expose how celebrity endorsements really work, told people how much she was enjoying her new iPhone 6 a good month after she had passed away. It was almost as if she’d been paid to endorse a product and threw a tweet together then scheduled when it would post.
This year marked the hundred years anniversary of the World War One, or the Great War as it was known in the day. I was talking with one of Kims sisters about it and was shocked to find out that they don’t teach anything about it in schools anymore. She didn’t even know about that amazing time on Christmas when the German troops sang Silent Night and climbed from their trenches into No-Mans Land, and both sides had a game of football together. When an advert for Christmas showed that event happening and I mentioned how weird it seems now that they’d do that, she was astounded to find out it had happened.
There were celebrations all around this country, and even a debate going on in the background. How long should we remember this? I’m personally torn about this debate. On the one hand it was a war like no other and shouldn’t be forgotten, but on the other it was a hundred years ago. Anyone who fought in it is dead now. Most of the children of those who fought in it are dead. If the details of this war are no longer being taught in school then how long until those who are expected to remember it don’t actually know what they’re supposed to remember? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to how much longer we should remember the Great War or, if there is, it’d take a smarter man than me to find it.
Other more personal anniversaries fell this year too. For me it was the thirtieth anniversary of Transformers. If you’ve been reading this for a while or know me at all, you’ll know that I love the Transformers. For a while in my childhood, immersing myself into the world of these gigantic robots was the only time I felt truly safe. Thirty years on and there have been many iterations of the concept, some of them good (the current IDW comics, especially More Than Meets The Eye) while others were a mockery of the very concept created by someone who has no interest beyond the dollar signs and the need to make things explode.
For my birthday, Kim got me a Transformer from the Masterpiece range. These are toys that have been created using todays engineering processes to make them as close to the original cartoons as possible, and much closer than was possible when they were released thirty years ago. For the most part, Masterpiece Transformers are truly wonderful things and it’s got me seriously collecting the toys again.
A lot happened in the world this year and I probably haven’t even scratched the surface of the biggest headlines. To be honest, I’ve been concentrating a lot more on myself than the world. In another post I’ll explain the changes we’ve made to our budget and how it’s continuing to improve our lives, but there have been other changes too. I’ve started cooking a lot more like I used to and have been having tastier and healthier meals as a result. This has led to me dropping a good ten pounds over the past four months or so and I’ll probably drop a bit more over the next year. And then there’s the world which seems to have decided to take all my money recently.
I just told you guys that I rediscovered Transformers toys and have been collecting some old and new favourites now that I can get classic figures either reengineered or reimagined. That’s already taken a good chunk of the money we’ve saved with our new budget, but it makes me happy. And in the latter part of the year, after decades of licensing issues, the wonderfully camp 1966 Batman show with Adam West finally got a home media release. We bought the DVD version and it’s just as good as I remember from my days doing homework in front of the television at stupid o’clock in the morning. I know these may not sound like much but I’ve always been kind of spending money on things for the sake of something to do these past few years. These items though, represent some of the few happy times of my childhood and I feel like buying them is more of an investment in myself and my past than just for funsies. I don’t know, it’s tough to explain unless you’ve got something like that and doesn’t really need explaining if you have.
2014 was a pretty good year for me. While the world seemed to be falling apart and tragedy struck all around, I seemed to be coming back to myself a bit. To be quite honest I wasn’t aware I’d even left myself so it was a pleasant surprise. In 2015 I plan more of the same, but I hope that the world itself is a little bit calmer now that the Queen has taken the iron throne. For those of you affected by these horrific moments I can only offer this reminder, platitude though it may seem. Even through the darkest and ugliest moments, beauty and serenity can be glimpsed.