This will be the last blog I ever write.
That is, if the Mayans are correct and tomorrow is the end of the world.
The reputation of the ancient American civilisation will either remain intact, though with nobody left to celebrate or say ‘I told you so,’ or, like so many others this year, it will be ruined. Personally, I hope it is ruined, and that is nothing against the Mayans, simply my love of this thing called living.
Lance Armstrong, former 7 time ‘winner’ of the Tour de France, inspiration to cancer survivors across the world and all round American hero is one who may be wishing for the Apocalypse. One by one his former team mates turned against him this year and Armstrong’s reputation tumbled quicker than a group of downhill cyclists in the Pyrenees.
In contrast to the demise of one sporting hero, the London Olympics offered the world many more in 2012. Michael Phelps cemented his place in sporting folklore by becoming the greatest ever medal winner in the history of the games, Jamaican Usain Bolt became the first man to defend a 100m gold and Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani created history by becoming the first female athletes to represent Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Elsewhere, Mo Farah delighted the local crowd, Ye Shiwen emerged as the next Chinese super swimmer and American Manteo Mitchell defied all pain barriers to finish his leg of the 4 x 400m having broken one of his own at the 200m mark.
In the other corners of the sporting world, Spain reinforced their reputation as the footballing kings of Europe with a 4 – 0 domination of Italy, to become the first team to win back to back titles; in Africa, the Cup of Nations saw Zambia upset perennial big time chokers Cote D’Ivoire to win 8-7 on penalties; and down under, Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke stamped his authority as the nations number one batsmen and leader with a Bradmanesque year, becoming the first player to score four test double centuries in a calendar year. In tennis, Andy Murray rewrote his reputation as an also ran, when he finally broke through to win his maiden grand slam, quickly followed by an Olympic gold, the big three of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer shared the other grand slams, with only Serena Williams winning multiple singles titles in 2012.
While Lance Armstrong may be busy wishing for the Apocalypse, Syria’s tyrannical President Bashar al Assad continued where he left off in 2011, doing his best to bring it about himself. The Syrian leader is the only remaining head of state not to have fallen from 2011’s Arab Spring and the death toll from the civil war is estimated at 40,000, sadly a two year anniversary of the conflict looks likely.
Assad has not been alone in cementing his reputation as a ruthless brute this year. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, with a new and surprising reputation as the sexiest man alive, has continued his father’s legacy of nuclear ambitions and political imprisonments. In Myanmar, President Thein Sein and his generals have been trying in vain to recast their collective reputation by increasing political freedoms and opening negotiations with Western powers, though their continual repression of the countries ethnic Rohingya still tarnishes their names. In Africa, where ruthless brutes seemingly roam free, despite the best efforts of social media, the populations of Mali, DR Congo, Nigeria and South Sudan, amongst others, continued to suffer at the hands of religious fundamentalists, militia groups and police forces. On the upside, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was finally convicted of war crimes and will spend the rest of his existence behind bars. Afghanistan’s reputation as possibly the most dangerous place on earth was done no harm this year, after another 12 months of violence. The American occupiers also maintained their reputation as beacons of humanity, when leaked pictures showed soldiers posing with dead bodies. Not wanting to be forgotten or outdone, Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unleashed a barrage of violence against Gaza in November, claiming self defence from Hamas rocket fire. In the lead up the UN granting Palestine non-member observer status, the Israeli state once again enforced its reputation as a brutal repressor and non negotiator.
The parallel universe of Hollywood once again offered us the chance to experience bad guys from behind the safety of a box of popcorn. We watched as Bane terrorised the good people of Gotham City, before a re-energised Batman, out to save his battered reputation, defeated him. Meanwhile, The Avengers defeated Loki and his Chitauri Army, Spiderman returned to battle The Lizard and the one and only Bond, James Bond, saved the reputation of MI6 in Skyfall. As always a predictable and uninspiring Hollywood churned out its usual array of sequels, adaptations and remakes including The Hobbit, Madagascar 3, American Pie, Men in Black 3, another Bourne film, Ice Age 4, an truly awful Tom Cruise led Rock of Ages, The Hunger Games, and the dreadfully sad image that is Sly Stallone and his geriatric Expendables goon squad. Movie critics around the world have had to swallow their collective pride this year and credit the oft ridiculed Ben Affleck for producing arguably the movie of the year, with Argo. Affleck’s reputation as an actor is now largely resurrected and Bennifer, nothing but a distant memory.
The off-screen lives of Hollywood’s stars in 2012 provided arguably more entertainment than they did on. TomKat stole all the headlines, with one of the weirdest marriages coming to a suitably bizarre conclusion. Following their divorce, Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger and sk8r girl Avril Lavigne climbed atop the illustrious mantle of oddest of odd couples. Madonna continued her superficial political activism by stripping in support of Pakistani women’s rights, only months after pulling plans for a $15m school in Malawi. In Britain, the aging Spice Girls briefly reunited, for as long as they could stand each others company, while One Direction not only graduated from grade 6, but became the globes latest musical ‘sensation,’ sending 12 year old girls around the world into fits of hysteria – and making Simon Cowell as crapload of money. Thankfully their presence was countered by the return of 90’s grunge heavyweights Soundgarden, who reminded everyone exactly how rock is done, with the excellent King Animal. Fellow 90’s star Tupac Shakur proved his immortality yet again, by appearing via hologram at a show in Coachella, long time friend Snoop Dogg appeared on stage (in person), only months before getting really fuckin’ high in Jamaica and renaming himself Snoop Lion. Of course rising above them all was none other than South Korea’s Psy, whose ‘Gangnam Style’ inspired morning television hosts across the world to make idiots of themselves on national television. The clip has since become the most watched YouTube video ever.
Psy was not the only person to make his mark by using social media this year. In March, Kony 2012 took the online world by storm. Jason Russell, the campaign’s leader, reacted to the success of highlighting the plight of child soldiers in Africa by getting himself arrested for public masturbation while ‘in a state of undress.’ Following Russell’s capture, and with his reputation in tatters, the campaign surprisingly lost all momentum and the April 20 ‘day of action’ went by largely unnoticed. Meanwhile, Joseph Kony is still raping and pillaging his way around Central Africa, unperturbed. The other online sensations of the year included the gaoled, then freed Russian punks Pussy Riot and the free, then gaoled Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ fame. Politicians also harnessed its power, with Barack Obama setting a retweet photo world record after his election victory and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech,’ going viral – thankfully neither of them took inspiration from Mr Russell following their successes.
Gillard’s speech was a rare highlight in a bitter and spiteful year of Australian politics. The year began with the Australia day ‘riot,’ followed by Kevin Rudd’s failed attempt to win back his old job, and given the public thrashing he took at the hands of his colleagues, he was fortunate to have any job after that. While one former leader’s reputation was in tatters, another was honoured, when in April Greens leader Bob Brown announced he was retiring from federal politics. On the policy front, the perennial asylum seeker debate continued to divide the nation and baffle politicians, at he same time in England, one of our own became the world’s most famous refugee, hauled up inside the Ecuadorian embassy. The much feared carbon tax proved to be neither a cobra strike nor a python squeeze, rather a lazing sloth, while gay marriage continued to make its weekly appearance on Q and A (and a new appearance on Oreo’s). Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson’s public private lives dragged on throughout the year, while the pasts of Gillard and Abbott were exhumed in efforts to score political points. In Queensland, incoming Premier Campbell Newman won a landslide election and went about slashing the public service to the same size as his Labour opposition, solidifying the reputation of state Liberal Premiers. On the political sidelines, Clive Palmer, Alan Jones and Gina Rinehart continued to make nuisances of themselves in attempts to justify their relevance, with Jones’ reputation suffering the most. Finally, a torrid year ended with the announcement of a Royal Commission into child sex abuse, and Catholic leaders in particular praying their already brittle institutional reputation does not disintegrate completely in 2013.
Prayer may not save all, though it will comfort many who have suffered and lost loved ones this year. Europeans suffered through one of the deadliest winters in recent memory, with the big freeze claiming over 500 lives. Haiti, still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010, was struck by Hurricane Sandy, prior to it unleashing its fury on the American east coast. In Africa, the Sahel drought dragged into its third year, leaving 18 million people without enough food. The Philippines, who like Iran suffered deadly earthquakes in 2012, was also attacked by Typhoon Bopha and many Pacific Islands nations were simultaneously devastated by Hurricane Evan.
While many familiar faces departed in 2012, including Whitney Houston, Neil Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Elisabeth Murdoch, Robin Gibb, Jim Stynes, Bryce Courtenay, Ravi Shankar, Jimmy Saville’s reputation and Beastie boy Adam Yauch, it was the unfamiliar and everyday faces that have touched us. Jill Meagher’s radiant and immortal smile is an image that will be etched in the memories of Australians and Irish for a long time. In Britain, the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse, wife and mother, angered and confused many, while in the US the faces of 20 young children have cast a new perspective on the need for gun control in America. President Obama, who this year publicly declared his support for marriage equality, now has the much bigger and more powerful pro-gun lobby to take on. After declaring that America ‘must change,’ a skeptical world waits to see if it is change we can believe in.
Across the Pacific, where the more things change the more they stay the same, the Chinese community party appointed their next President in Xi Jinping, and Russian Don Vladimir Putin resumed control of his country, neither were concerned in the slightest if their people believed in them or not. Where the ballot box does hold power, French and Greek populations chose new leaders, Malawians elected Africa’s second female President, while Catalans and Scots increased their momentum for independence. Of the world’s newest democracies, Egypt continued to dominate the headlines, with the world watching the sausage factory that is democracy in its infancy.
The goings on of our wonderful planet can be overwhelming sometimes, what with fiscal cliffs and austerity measures and carbon taxes and budget cuts and giant Tyrannosaurus Rex’s appearing at golf courses. Some can rest comfortably in the knowledge that 2012 has been a good year for them, with reputations made, intact or even enhanced, while others will mark it down as ‘annus horribilis,’ as Queen Elizabeth some did twenty years ago. It is at these times we need to enjoy and share the simpler pleasures of life, like the greatest human discovery of 2012 – more important to science than the Higgs-Boson, more important to world peace than Jason Russell, worthy of more acclaim than Sylvester Stallone or Tim Cruise’s acting and, if Kim Jong Un could master this talent, his sexist man on earth title would be untouchable for the next decade, I give you… the Hand Fart Master.
Thanks so much to everyone for reading this year and if you want to stay updated with all the happenings here at stublogs in 2013 please do subscribe 🙂 have a great Xmas and NYE and see you next year… if we’re here – looking at you Mayans!