2014: This Awful Year, In Review

GAWD

To start: Let us all collectively take a large inhale, close our eyes, and thank our god of choice that we made it through this memorable-in-all-the-wrong-ways horrorshow of a year. Then, during said inhalation, extend your middle finger to the sky.

It feels good. I promise.

I think I can speak for the collective unconscious when I say that this year will be forever defined by its never-ending swath of senseless tragedy and bullshit that, until recently, I thought was only possible in books by Lemony Snicket.

Twelve year old me had no idea that this would end up being year-defining.

What’s really remarkable about 2014 is the fact that it lacked the big budget tragic moment that usually defines other awful years. There was no 9/11. No Katrina. No one’s going to make any movies about shit that happened this year. They already made Lost so anything about MH370 is irrelevant.

Instead, what defines this year was the slowly trickling, but quickly relentless storm of tragedy, ignorance, and twists of fate that invaded the world around us this year. This year, we saw parts of the Middle East dissolve into pseudo-feudal anarchies, violent conflicts between citizens and cops, two different Not Wars that has killed tens of thousands, countless airplane tragedies, childhood shattering celebrity deaths, and Ebola turning West Africa into a Resident Evil-style graveyard. Oh yeah, and The Interview. Let’s not forget that circus either.

All of this combined creates a Falcon Punch directly to the face with one message: Everything is not fucking okay with the world today.

Let’s hop in our Stuff Corbin Hates© Magickal Time Machine and travel back to the beginning of the year so we can better understand 2014. Just like Memento, current events are really worth a repeat viewing for context.

January – February

I’m a firm believer that the way that you begin a year tends to define the rest of the year. That is why I never intend to begin a year hungover ever again. Bad shit happens. Often I wonder if my hangover is what sealed the fate for those poor passengers of MH370.

Those of you who watched the Olympics will recognize the above picture as the fail-tastic rings that Chairman-BearRider Putin presented to the world at the opening ceremonies in Sochi. You can never find good help these days, especially in a shithole like Sochi. To say that this session of hosting the Olympics was a major international embarrassment to Russia is an understatement. It may have also sewn the seeds for the Serious Business that would take place in the region over the course of the year.

To explain, let’s pretend that they decided to host the Olympics in…Albuquerque. And let’s say New Mexico is Russia. So, the state of New Mexico/Russia is already a clusterfuck of corruption and general lack of competence. They were given a short period of time to convert Albuquerque/Sochi into a place not only habitable by normal humans, but by a large amount of international human beings. So Susana Martinez/Vladimir Putin pulled what meager resources they could into what was essentially a rush remodeling job. The result was…not great.

Twitter: The greatest threat to Russia since Rocky Balboa.

In addition to the ghastly conditions that spectators, athletes, and journalists had to endure, there was the slightly much less amusing business happening on Russia’s western border. The Ukraine (or as most people know it, that Russian country that isn’t Russian that always kicks ass in women’s gymnastics) has been an independent territory from Russia since 1990. However, it’s maintained a kind of millenial-in-their-parents-basement attitude: taking the assistance and direction it can from the mother country to avoid the ravages of the real international world. However, Ukraine has gotten more mature and made new, foreign friends like the EU that its parents don’t approve of. So, there have been some growing pains.

Pictured: Growing pains.

Long story short, Russia began cracking down on Ukraine and its protestors. They used its puppet government to pass laws and instill propaganda against any kind of partnership with the EU as well as cracking down on any protests against Russia. The majority of Ukrainians, tired of said puppet politicians, went all “I HATE YOU MOM!” and started rioting all over the place. This was bad for Mother Russia because she was trying to have a nice little dinner party and some games for all the dignitaries of the world while her kid was lighting fires in the backyard. And the world was definitely taking notice.

Like a true debutante, Russia was able to keep a good poker face through the entire debacle. However, everyone in the global community knew exactly what was coming. As soon as goodbyes were shared, the food was cleared, and the dishes were done, Mother Russia was going to change into Papa Bear and take Junior behind the woodshed with his belt.

The Sochi Olympics ended February 23. Russian troops were occupying the Crimea by March 1.

Overall, the events of the first two months set the tone for the rest of the year: Fear of an authoritarian government, civil unrest, and a boatload of weird.

Other Shit

  • The town of Fallujah, also known as the city that we fought like assholes for in the 2nd Iraq War, fell under the control of this little upstart group of militants by the name of ISIS. Isn’t foreshadowing great?
  • Colorado opened up the very first recreational dispensaries in January. In related news, America did not turn into Juarez and marijuana is now slowly ambling its way into legitimate society. Golf clap for Colorado (and other legal weed states) for not screwing it up for everyone!
  • Dennis Rodman, former Chicago Bull and current Ambassador to the Stars, appears on national TV signing the praises of North Korea and his new buffet buddy, Kim Jong-Un. More foreshadowing!
  • In Spottieottiedopalicious Newz, OutKast gets back together, only to discover that everyone forgot all their songs except Hey Ya.
And Ms. Jackson for the purists.
  •  A f***ing fracking well oopsie’d all over Elk River in West Virginia and basically made things an inhospitable nightmare for a few months But hey, energy independence and stuff!
  • Many people were dying in Syria.
  • President Obama announces sweeping reforms to the NSA. NOTHING TO SEE HERE CITIZEN.
  • Our first WTF Celebrity Death of the year is brought to you by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a tortured genius who fell into darkness and drugs. Not to be confused with the other dead tortured genius that fell into darkness and drugs.
  • Remember how the government shut down at the start of the year? Remember how much we hated the Republicans for being such asshats? Remember how we VOTED THEM INTO POWER LATER IN NOVEMBER WHAT THE GODDAMN FUCK AMERICA.
  • A sinkhole appears out of nowhere and swallows the One Millionth Corvette because God apparently hates the shit out of Corvettes.
  • Ellen Page came out of the closet, which wasn’t surprising considering she could still be more butch than Michael Cera while pregnant.

March

They still haven’t found that fucking plane.

I’m just going to elaborate on this idea so we understand the significance of this statement. We, citizens of the 21st Century, have access to a dizzying array of technology. Ordinary citizens regularly carry supercomputers in their pockets that are tracked by dozens, even hundreds, of data-related entities at a single time. Our surveillance technology is so powerful that we can identify a terrorist suspect in a crowd of thousands. Our command and view of the world is vast. Our species is the closest thing to omniscient that we could have ever fathomed. We are nearly gods of our own creation.

All this and we still lose a fucking plane in the goddamn ocean.

aljsdfa;kdjcjo.

We are now at the point in this whole storyline that we, as a collective should be able to acknowledge one of two things: Either (1) Something unbelievably sinister and/or covert took place and we will never know what happened unless someone has a Come To Jesus moment and confesses everything; or (2) Everyone is so fucking bad at their jobs that I can’t even.

Because I’m not a tinfoil hat nutsypants, let’s just settle for the 2nd option for the time being. Besides, I’m a firm believer that stupid and incompetence is often mistaken for evil by others. The only exception to this is my old Vietnamese boss Lan, who I sincerely believe to be pure evil.

Nothing scares me more than this woman.

So, we’re pushing ahead with the idea that the pilots completely biffed communication and got lost, everyone’s radar in the world suddenly got The Blue Screen of Death, and the plane spontaneously disintegrated because a passenger either divided by zero or beat Luigi in Mario Golf.

Yeah, seems legit to me.

Ultimately, the “how” or “why” of MH370’s disappearance has been lost in the shuffle of all the other crap that happened this year. The plight of the poor families of the 200+ missing dead people on the flight will probably never be resolved. It’s one of the most tragic things to arise out of the situation.

The most tragic, of course, is the final gasp of CNN as a non-national punchline. The really pathetic thing about the media’s coverage of MH370 is that it was like the first hit of sweet tragic heroin to those networks who had been backed up hard for a real URGENT BREAKING NEWZ STORY to bring up the ratings. Even on a slow news day, CNN will go back to reporting on the general lack of plane-ness to try and get some of the old magic back.

MH370 was the perfect opening act for the media circus, setting the stage for the equally overdramatic coverage of Ebola, ISIS, Ferguson, and The Great North Korean Non-Hack that was to follow later. But we’ve already heard more than enough about that damn plane. Moving right along.

Other Shit

Meanwhile, in the Ukraine….
  • While the rest of the world was losing its collective shit over a missing plane, Mother Russia was busy putting das boot (different country, don’t care) on the Ukraine. Putin strapped on his Battle Antlers and ordered his troops into the easily occupied and very pro-Russian Crimea territory. Annexation quickly followed. For those who don’t know, annexing is the international equivalent of throwing your flag down and going “Mine now!” This led to an amount of WW2-like rhetoric from fear mongers in the media, comparing Russia’s invasion of the Crimea to Nazi Germany and Putin to Hitler. This was a bogus comparison, mainly because Hitler could at least grow facial hair. International condemnation was swift and retribution came in the form of many international economic sanctions against Russia. Right wing politicians in the United States were quick to say that sanctions were not enough, mainly because sanctions don’t go “KA-BOOM!”
  • In more foreshadowing news, Ebola first rears its head in Liberia after hearing about its reputation as one of Africa’s shittiest countries from its travel agent.
Liberia: Survive 30 days and get citizenship free!
  • A squadron of knife wielding terrorists attacked a railway station in China, resulting in nearly 30 deaths. For footage, consult your closest kung-fu movie.
  • Despite being indirectly responsible for Windows XP and making me finally sell out and get a Macbook. Bill Gates was named the world’s richest man. Again.
  • A drunk driver drove into a crowd at SXSW, killing four people. The people of Austin were saddened until they found out that the 4 dead were transplants.
  • People were still killing each other in Syria.
  • How I Met Your Mother aired its final episode, pissing off literally everybody.
  • Quiznos filed for bankruptcy as long term cosmic punishment for airing those shit-tastic “WE LOVE THE SUBS” commercials with the guitar playing anthropomorphic vomit.
I’m glad you’re dead.

April – May

April and May, all things considered, were the most uneventful months of the year. With the exception of MH370 and all that Crimean business, the spring was the most stable and sane period of 2014. Considering May also played host to our annual Unhinged Sexually Frustrated Male Massacre (alumni include James Holmes, Jared Loughner, and that one Oldboy kid from Virginia Tech) this becomes a less comfortable fact. We also saw escalation of the conflict in the Ukraine (more on that later), as well as mass child abduction in Africa and a South Korean ferry sinking. You would almost think that things were starting to slow down. Silly rabbit.

A slight digression…

Looking back on the Elliot Rodger shooting makes me remember why doing these kinds of year-end retrospectives is important. At the time of the shooting, I regarded Elliot Rodger as a lone, somewhat hilariously and tragically misled dork from the dark side. Reading excerpts from his manifesto (and no, I still have not read the whole thing) he seemed like a real life, even shittier version of Holden Caulfield.

After witnessing the bile and hatred pour that came from the Gamergate movement, I now realize that not only is Elliot Rodger not a unique product of his time, but in fact there are hundreds of him playing Call of Duty and sucking down Mountain Dew as we speak. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of kids just like him that have claimed geek and video game culture as their stronghold, using it as their bully pulpit to hurl invectives and death threats.

This shit is still going on today, with the current controversy being another group of Basement Terrorists, Anonymous, threatening Iggy Azalea with releasing stills from an alleged sex tape because of some internet feud with infinitely-more-talented-but-infinitely-more-annoying Azealia Banks. Anonymous cites moral high ground reasons such as her presumed “bigotry” while threatening to do something much more morally reprehensible (like release an underage sex tape). It’s akin to teaching your child not to lie by drowning their pet hamster. Not that I’m bringing back old memories or anything…

Just like Elliot Rodger used the purported sluttiness of his victims as justification for his actions, there are hundreds of young men just like him on 4chan and reddit everyday posting revenge porn and openly fantasizing about torturing female gamers and masking it behind shitty excuses like “cultural appropriation” or “ethics in journalism”. I guess what I’m trying to say is…

Anyway, where was I?

Other Shit

  • In a Ukrainian news update, the newly independent and Crimea-less Ukraine now have to put up with a strong contingent of pro-Russia rebels that, somehow, are being supplied with top grade military hardware and artillery. When asked for comment, Grand Chancellor Putin just chuckled and continued polishing his battle axe. Shirtless.
Vladimir Putin gardening.
  • Boko Haram, which is essentially African ISIS made of MC Ride replicas, took a pause from their usual routine of massacring entire villages of non-believers for funnies to abduct 200 schoolgirls from a school in Nigeria. This gave birth to the stupid famous hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, to the delight of t-shirt and wristband makers everywhere.
  • Continuing the international trend in unbelievably awful things happening to Asian transport vessels, an entire South Korean ferry capsized and killed over three hundred people, mostly students.
  • An Egyptian court, in a move that would make a Texas Republican grin, issued simultaneous death sentences to 638 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood society. I imagine it’s sort of like accidentally hitting “Yes to All” on your computer but with a lot more blood.
  • People stopped killing each other for a second in Syria. But then they started killing each other again.
  • In another series of moves that surely had nothing to do with Toyota being fined $1.2 billion, GM recalled 24 million vehicles, Chrysler recalled 870,00, and Ford recalled 435,000. Which models? I don’t know, probably the one that you’re driving.
  • Scientists announce a new drug that has a 90-95% success rate against Hepatitis C. Insert a joke about your ex-girlfriend of choice here.
  • A group of documentary makers unearth a landfill full of copies of the Atari E.T video game buried in New Mexico. Unknown whether they can do the same thing about George R. R. Martin.
  • In 19th Century News, the World Health Organization announces that polio is a thing once again.
  • Apple purchases Beats in a bid to create an overpriced hardware monopoly.

The Cruel Summer (June thru August)

Well, this is pretty much when it all went straight to Hell. Never in my immediate memory do I remember a time when the world collectively shit the bed as hard as it did from June through August of this year. Commercial planes being shot down, high profile suicides, global terrorism, region-decimating pandemic, it was like the Cruel Summer was conceived and written by Tom Clancy and edited by Cormac McCarthy. Bleak and terrible no matter where you looked. It was like New Mexico in the winter.

Let’s go ahead and do a grand tour of the world in our Stuff Corbin Hates© Magickal Time Helicopter to survey the damage! It’s okay, we won’t run out of fuel. It’s powered by tears.

The Middle East, ISIS, and How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Drone

Religious violence is a given in the Middle East. One accepts it the same way one accepts humidity in the Midwest and shitty coffee from gas stations. Car bombings, shootings, and other acts of terrorism are just blips on our international news cycle if they register at all.

Enter ISIS.

Wolverines!

You’d be hard pressed to find a larger group of international douchebags than the members of the Islamic State. One third cult, one third Cobra Command,  and one third Nazi Germany with a nice Galactic Empire-style color scheme, it’s essentially a group of action movie villains come to life. They began as an even-more-extreme section of al-Qaeda that soon grew too big for their Battle Nike’s and declared themselves a separate entity after realizing that public beheadings, a cool flag, and sex slaves were great recruiting tools for your average Muhammad Sixpack in Syria or Lebanon. When you’re torn between milking the family goats on one hand and playing real life Call of Duty in Fallujah on the other, it’s not a hard decision.

In the time leading up to the Cruel Summer, ISIS had been slowly pervading itself throughout the region with massive public demonstrations, executions, and aggressive recruiting drives. For many extremist Sunni Muslims that had fallen out of power since Saddam’s fall, ISIS seemed to be a chance to take the power back from the infidels who had ousted them from power. Perhaps we should have seen this coming before deposing a powerful dictator in an unstable religion-dominated region but hey,  Mission Accomplished.

Happy now, dicknose?

The Cruel Summer saw ISIS enter Phase 2 of its Wacky World Domination Plan that essentially read like this:

Step 1. Declare a caliphate in Iraq.

Step 2. _____________________

Step 3. WORLD DOMINATION!!!  72 VIRGINS AND PITA BREAD FOR EVERYONE!

This plan, for those of you haven’t been paying attention, has been going hilariously bad for ISIS. That’s what tends to happen when you stop waging a guerrilla war and start waging a traditional land war with only 30,000 half trained soldiers and supply chains that our drones use for target practice. They’re currently being beaten back by the Kurdish Peshmerga militia force without any sign of resurgence to their former power. Bitches.

What’s not so hilarious has been the tactics and methods of warfare that ISIS has been conducting since it began its slow death march to Baghdad in June. On a very related note, I wouldn’t recommend doing a GIS for ISIS with your Safesearch turned off unless you have a thing for severed heads.

ISIS had a pretty efficient system for nonbelievers that had the misfortune of living in their territory. Death for the men (and boys), sexual torture and slavery if you’re a woman. Kinda like American Apparel.

The fear of a domestic attack by the Islamic State was a recurring theme in our media over the course of the summer. Typical that we can’t bring ourselves to care about mass genocide unless, heaven forbid, an American might get hurt. Once ISIS executed journalist James Foley and posted it on Youtube for the world to see, it only became a matter of time before a United States response. Obama finally responded (amid a storm of Right Wing War Boners) by authorizing drone and tactical air strikes on known ISIS positions. Between sanctions on Russia and the droning in the Middle East, I’d say we set a new standard for passive-aggressive diplomacy this year.

America.

The Ukrainian Civil War, or Why I Will Never Fly In Asia

Let’s turn our gaze from a region where terrorists are blowing up innocent civilians and over to a place where sovereign governments were doing pretty much the same thing without any kind of 3rd party help, thank you very much.

Those pesky pro-Russia separatists that we met back in April decided to step up their game by claiming urban territory (hotels, airports, bouncy castles) in the Ukrainian region of Donbass. As anyone that’s played Mercenaries can tell you, it’s extremely difficult to pursue military objectives when there are civilians all over the goddamn place. That’s why both the Ukrainian government and separatists have been playing it relatively safe this year, only taking very localized, surgical strikes and practicing the utmost of target accuracy during infantry maneuvers.

Nah, just kidding. They’ve pretty much been shelling blindly. It’s going as well as you would expect.

This was all brought to a head during one of the most tragic international fuck-ups in recent memory as a Malaysian passenger plane (those poor fucks just can’t catch a break) carrying 283 civilians was mistaken for a military transport and blown out of the sky by overzealous militants in mid-July. After a couple days worth of finger pointing, it was generally accepted that the plane was shot down by the separatists using anti-aircraft weapons that they had received as an Easter gift from Uncle Vladimir.

International reaction was swift to move against Russia, who was experiencing a series of diplomatic nightmares not seen since Charlie Sheen started smoking crack again. The International Red Cross categorized the Ukrainian conflict as an honest-to-god WAR, meaning that both sides were now being watched closely for war crimes. Led by the United States (again), NATO also enacted a second series of sanctions and credit freezes on Russian oligarchs to teach them why sharing is bad. Russia, obviously, complied quickly.

HAHA, gotcha again! They started sending their own men and tanks in around August. That sneaky Putin, he’s so sneaky.

With the cunning use of camouflage pants, Sneaky Putin is able to navigate successfully through Alligator Swamp.

Resident Evil: West Africa

And just when you thought that things in the Northern Hemisphere couldn’t get any more fucked, we adjust our gaze to the Southern Hemisphere and discover an entirely new pit of snakes. A pit of highly contagious, hemorrhaging snakes.

When Ebola arrived in Liberia in March, it was like a match made in Pandemic Heaven. Which, by the way, is my new industrial band.

See, Ebola is only contagious through physical contact with those infected. Also, they need to be showing symptoms of Ebola in order to be contagious. Such as bleeding and vomiting and bleeding vomit all over the place. In developed countries like America or Spain, it’s pretty easy to pick those infected out of a crowd and have them 23-19’d until they’re either corpses or cured. That’s why basic hygiene is important.

So imagine Ebola’s joy upon arriving in Liberia where the life expectancy is barely 60, half the country is illiterate, and over 60 percent of the country lives below the poverty line and packed into teeny-tiny slums that make your dorm look like a full gymnasium.

Ebola in Africa.

Upon its arrival, Ebola only had a paltry 40-something deaths to its name. By the start of the Cruel Summer, our little enterprising disease had quadrupled its body count. As the summer continued, Ebola began to spread like a flash fire throughout Liberia and the West African. Shitty living conditions and unbelievably awful medical infrastructure combined to create the perfect environment for Ebola to grow and prosper. By the end of August, Ebola had claimed over 1,000 lives in Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone.

In July, a quarantine was declared on sections of Liberia while the borders were closed to the country. This may have seemed like a surprise to its population, since its shit-head government had spent the past two months reassuring it’s illiterate populace that there was no virus and it was all a bunch of overblown Western bullshit. You know, kinda like anti-vaxxers.

The result is pretty much what you would expect: Nationwide mistrust in doctors and government led to riots in the capital of Monrovia in which Ebola patients were “liberated” by their compatriots. You can probably imagine those same liberators’ surprise when they woke up later in the week with nausea, diarrhea, and bleeding eyes.

Only good for two of three.

Other Shit

  • There was this whole deal in the Gaza Strip that I already wrote about. Go back and read if you’re curious.
  • Robin Williams killed himself and our childhood because fuck you, that’s why.
  • In less-reported tragic celebrity news, former 30 Rock star and National Treasure Tracy Morgan was involved in a brutal car accident from which he is still recovering. Get well soon, Brian Fellow.
Never forget.
Immediate reaction shot.

September

For those of you who are getting a little exhausted from all this senseless tragedy happening in places far away from home and comprehension, allow me to adjust the lens of our sad-ass annual recap to events south of the border.

Believe it or not, Mexico is not all Spring Break locales and tequila bars. Exhibit A:

Mexico in a picture.

In fact, Mexico has a somewhat awful poverty problem. Over half of the country exists below the poverty line and this issue is compounded by an intensified government war on the drug cartels that began in 2006 and has ratcheted the murder rate from Kill Bill Vol. 2 to Kill Bill Vol. 1. To date, 150,000 people have died since ’06 as a result of drug violence. That number is probably higher, since a frighteningly large amount of murders in the slums of Mexico go unreported or remain missing persons cases until forever.

Which brings us to one of the more disturbing stories of 2014: The Iguala Kidnapping.

Sparknotes Summary – In September, a group of students aged 18 – 25 from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College (a radical left wing from Ayotzinapa) were abducted by cartel gang members with the assistance/cooperation of the local corrupt police force during a protest in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. According to gang members, the students were executed and their remains burned because reasons. So far, the remains of only 1 student have been identified out of the 42 missing.  Everyone from the mayor of Iguala to the police force have been implicated in the students’ abduction and murder. Protests and investigations continue to this day.

For those of you wondering how such an awful and shit-stirring story didn’t hit the mainstream news, I direct our attention to the not-so-subtle arrival of Ebola in the United States four days later that sent our country and media into PANIC ARMAGEDDON A-GO-GO MODE for the following two weeks. See, while the entire world was either murdering the shit out of each other, inviting pestilence, or drowning in boats, America was busy boarding up its windows and doors for the inevitable NUCLEAR EBOLA STORM. Powered by the Michael Bay Theorem that states nothing is an actual tragedy or disaster unless it happens in America, our media cranked its Fear Machine© into overdrive. With the equally prolific scary headline machine ISIS also in full force, our country was caught in a marathon of scaremongering not seen since we were all wetting our pants over anthrax. The implied question on every news anchors tongue was not “Would Ebola reach the United States?” but “When will Ebola reach us, and how many of us will perish?”

BREAKING NEWS ON CNN

The result was that a majority of Americans generally ignored a lot of the more outrageous stories of August and September because we were too busy being afraid of our own shadow. Granted, we did take a break to freak out about all those celebrity n00die pix, but every disaster movie needs some T&A. It got to the point where if we didn’t get an Ebola case in America, half the population was going to ask for their money back while all the major networks would go back to their day jobs (FOX: Hating Obama, MSNBC: Hating FOX, CNN: Day 173 Without MH370). And nobody wanted that.

While the overhyping of Ebola in the media should be, and is, deservedly mocked, it bespeaks a much more disturbing issue underlying the practically nonexistent Iguala kidnapping coverage. What lies before us is an example of free citizens of a sovereign nation being brutally murdered with the cooperation of government and police forces in conjunction with crime syndicates.  These are stories that we expect to read coming from parts of Rambo Africa or Somalia. Not neighboring countries that we tend to visit for our vacations. With recent issues arising of police authority abuse and political corruption in our own country, these are the kinds of issues that deserve our attention and the fact that our media ignored it because Ebola was sexier and scarier is reason enough for them to all lose their goddamn jobs. Not that they will, though.

Other Shit

  • America begins its droning campaign against ISIS, fulfilling the dream of every soldier whose favorite game was Battleship as a child.
  • ISIS released its second beheading video of journalist Stephen Sotloff. Initial reviews called it a trite rehash of the first beheading video with an over-reliance on the same techniques that made the first one so ground-breaking.
  • A group of hackers showed Hollywood and the rest of America why you should never, ever, for any fucking reason store personal items on iCloud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the positive expression of female sexuality (or whatever the fuck the feminists are calling this). I just think Cloud is stupid.
  • Yeah, they’re still killing each other over in Syria.
  • Jocks were acting like jocks and everyone was somehow surprised.
  • You might also be wondering to yourself “Wow, shit sure is fucked in the Middle East and Africa this year. Why doesn’t anyone just try to…idk…leave?” Well, smartypants, that idea definitely occurred to plenty of people. And 500-700 of them drowned when their ship was rammed by human traffickers.
  • Ebola passes the 3K kill mark in the countries where it’s actually happening. Achievement unlocked.
  • Archaeologists determine the cause of death of Richard III, which becomes the biggest story of the year for your high school theater teacher. Let him/her have it. It’s all they have.

 October

There’s no question that, notoriety wise, we reached Peak Ebola in October. Once Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with the disease at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the simultaneous sexual climax by all the major news networks was visible from space. The only way that this could have been more ratings bait was if MH370 had re-materialized over New York and sprinkled Ebola on everybody with its new alien powers while piloted by Kim Kardashian.

After a collective agreement that ISIS was no longer scary or a threat unless you’re a journalist in Syria, media outlets doubled down on Ebola HARD. We were treated to a variety show of paranoia-stroking from every angle imaginable. For the first week after the diagnosis, there were “possible cases” reported in places as varied as Honolulu, Salt Lake City, and D.C. Anyone curious as to how a disease localized in Africa with such specific transmission qualifications could be false flagged so many times in America should consult this handy chart that CNN gave everybody to help identify Ebola symptoms:

Well, that narrows it down.

You may notice that they left out two of Ebola’s most important symptoms: “Bleeding from any conceivable orifice” as well as “Physical contact with someone bleeding from any conceivable orifice”. But really, after three-five months of invisible plane chasing, could we really expect anyone at CNN to be medical experts? Or concerned with facts at all?

No. The answer is no.

What remains is an unbelievably generic list of symptoms that meant anything from a flu to a bad hangover could possibly be the first stage of EBOLA. As the month trundled onwards, Ebola Fever (*rimshot*) swept through America. To its credit, our country did an unbelievably shitty job containing the disease from the very beginning. Whether it was allowing people who actually were infection threats to travel by plane or cruise ship (already risky forms of transportation in 2014) or completely fucking up the initial Ebola diagnosis, our health care system was in rare form this year in terms of incompetence. When Captain Trips finally does arrive on our coast, we’re probably all fucked.

However, these are the kinds of facts that got a little obscured with all the indiscriminate panic and fear mongering. After all, we had an election going on!

Establishment Republicans, in their never-ending campaign to blame every single thing in the world on Obama and the Democratic Party, found a new drum to beat in the upcoming midterm elections. After all, we can’t let the media have all the fun making shit up, right? Reading statements about Ebola at the time was like talking to my conspiracy theorist friends after their third beer. Obama is covering up Ebola. Ebola is a plot by Obama to turn us into Africa. Illegal immigrants are bringing Ebola with them across our border. When the panic at its peak, I was wondering when someone was going to go on TV and accuse Obama of outfitting the Benghazi terrorists with Combat Ebola on orders from his Secret ISIS Bosses.

Of course, we all know that Ebola was a red herring. Very much like the first couple seasons of American Horror Story, American Ebola had a fantastic introduction, but just couldn’t back up the hype. After Duncan’s much publicized death, the disease went on to infect a couple nurses and a doctor (you know, people who could actually catch the disease) and then slowly petered out. Clearly, someone needs to fire their agent.

Today, Ebola is treated like another current event punchline like MH370 and it gets narry a mention on network television except for the occasional scare revival. Meanwhile in Africa, where the disease is a very real problem and people are too busy dying or burying their relatives to exploit it for ratings or political points, Ebola had reached the 5000 fatality mark with over twice as many infected by the end of October.

Other Shit

Bling bling, yo.
  • While your average 17 year old was on Snapchat or Instagram taking pictures of her Starbucks frappuccino with the caption “yum lol”, Malala “Yomama” Yousafzai becomes the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at 17 for her work in education and surviving getting shot in the head by the fucking Taliban. Respect.
  • ISIS begins a month long campaign to take the Kurdish city of Kobane in Syria. The siege is ultimately repulsed at the end of the month by Pershmerga reinforcements. Nobody told ISIS that the only way to kill a Kurd Kobane is with Courtney Love. And yes, this is your Monthly Syria Story.
  • The Kansas City Royals did their best impression of Malaysia Airlines by getting my hopes extremely high and then making them disappear altogether.
  • Kim Jong-Un disappears from public site for an extended period of time, fueling speculation that he was either seriously ill, dead, or binge watching the shit out of Buffy.
  • Just to switch up the multiple boat and airplane tragedies, a spaceship explodes.
  • Eric Frein, a 31 year old white male, murders a police officer and seriously injures another with a sniper rifle in Pennsylvania. A national manhunt ensues. Thankfully, he is simply a cop murderer instead of a shoplifter or black market cigarette dealer, and he is apprehended peacefully with no injuries.

November

As if 2014 wasn’t depressing enough, November saw big gains in the 2014 Election for our war hawk, climate change denying, Obamacare and illegal immigrant hating, Jeebus loving friends in the Republican Party as they solidified their hold on the House and took the Senate majority. This was an unfortunate, although expected, turn of events in light of low approval ratings for Obama and the general lack of message on the part of Democratic campaigning. Granted, the GOP was only running on a message of “Fuck Obama” but at least it was a message. Most Democratic candidates in the November elections were a bunch of lily-livered cowards that saw Obamacare’s iffy poll numbers and immediately rolled over on any issue that was remotely controversial; leaving them as floating chum for the political sharks that run the Koch-funded GOP campaigns.

A slight, non-funny digression, if I may…

At some point in the future, the Democratic Party is going to have to learn that it’s not going to win elections based on the fact that they’re not Republicans. Speaking for the progressives in the country, we voted Obama into office in 2008 because we thought him to be a progressive candidate representing a progressive party. Six years ago, Obama has demonstrated himself to be a capable and good President, but certainly not a progressive. True progressive voices like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders exist in the Democratic Party as well, but they’re exceptions to the rule and don’t receive the party support that they deserve. Our country has demonstrated that it wants marriage equality, marijuana legalization, and a move toward sustainable energy. So why the fuck won’t Democrats, the supposed liberal side of our political coin, actually talk about these issues?

Because Democrats are a bunch of cowardly groundhogs that won’t state their position on issues until their opinions fall within the public favor. That’s why. And until liberal politicians begin taking a stand on liberal issues, they will continue being trounced by conservative politicians who actually have identities. That’s why the Democratic Party got back-alley raped in the midterm elections this year. Hopefully they learned a lesson.

Kinda like that time John Kerry tried to appeal to conservatives by looking like a complete douche.

Don’t believe me? While the Republicans were busy pouring Gatorade on each other and making virgin sacrifices to their bronze statue of Reagan in Washington, the really curious tidbit of the midterm elections was the overwhelming success of progressive ballot initiatives. Minimum wage, workers rights, and drug decriminalization were able to win big victories in populous states while conservative measures like limits on abortion were defeated.

Meanwhile, conservative politicians wasted no time in promising voters exactly what they think we want: Obamacare revoked, the Keystone Pipeline, and a bunch of other conservative goodies. I, for one, am not excited.

Also, there was that whole Ferguson business. But I already wrote about that. Plus we have plenty more police brutality to cover in the following month….

Other Shit

  •  With a newly GOP-controlled legislature and his own party afraid to be seen in the same room as him, Obama commits to becoming a one man Trollminator against the Republican Party; announcing a climate deal with those filthy communists in China, issuing an executive order granting citizenship to five million illegal immigrants, and coming out in favor of net neutrality. FOX News hires 100 new interns to find new ways to re-phrase “socialist dictator” during on-air rants.
  • Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley, 12 and 28 respectively, are gunned down within a week of one another in Cleveland and New York during the week of the Ferguson verdict. The officers probably saw the writing on the wall and wanted to get their one free justified murder before that perk of the job is outlawed along with no discounts on the vending machine.
  • Bill Cosby begins facing wave after wave of accusations from women accusing him of rape and sexual assault throughout his career. Just another casualty in 2014’s war on your childhood.
  • Syria still being Syria all over the place.
  • The teaser for the J.J. Abrams Star Wars movie is released. Nerds trample each other in record numbers to pre-emptively declare it the worst Star Wars movie EVAR because the lightsaber was weird.
  • NO PLANES OR SHIPS DISAPPEARED, EXPLODED, OR SANK THIS MONTH! GOOD JOB WORLD!
  • AC/DC, notable for still being alive, ran into some controversy as their 60 year old drummer was arrested for drug possession and hiring a hitman for some dirty deeds done dirty cheap. Pretty sad when the most rock star move of 2014 is from your dad’s favorite band.
Time to man up, pussies.

December

You’d assume December would have the decency to remain relatively peaceful and incident-free after the Herculean marathon of the last eleven months. Of course, your assumption is false. Reading the events of the last thirty days has being treated to a 2014 Reunion Tour as the year replays its greatest hits. Police brutality and protests, corporate and government malfeasance, North Korea, radical Muslim militants, and even more shenanigans in Russia characterized December’s unhinged caboose on 2014’s crazy train.

Amid our end-of-the-year bacchanalia celebrating low gas prices and the release of The Interview, it’s important that we not lose sight of what became the defining issue of 2014 for America: Ebola  The abuse of authority and privilege by the American police force.

Let me preface by saying that I do not hate or even dislike cops. As a matter of fact, I’ve worked with cops in the past. For two years in New Mexico, I assisted as an actor in scenario training sessions for cadets in training. At various points, I was a domestic abuser, drug dealer, , an active shooter, and a dozen other characters to help cops develop in-the-moment scenario skills in a low-to-no-risk environment. During that time, I met a wide variety of people that made up our police force. Just like normal people, some were cool and some were assholes. Story time!

During one scenario, I was acting out a scenario as a crazy person swinging a machete outside of a gas station (because these things happen more than you think in New Mexico). During one of the sessions, I was chased down by an officer at a dead sprint across a parking lot. Once I reached the end of the parking lot, I turned around to signal the end of the scenario. Didn’t get the chance. This officer, who had at least one hundred pounds and a foot on me, tackled me Brian Urlacher-style onto the concrete nearly knocked me the fuck out. The officer failed the exercise and I later learned that he had been fired a year later for insubordination.

Although my case isn’t nearly on the same level as that of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, or other people that have died needlessly at the hands of the police, it is indicative of the issue at the very root of the police problem in our country. It’s important to remember that these officers are people just like us who have been given a firearm and an array of other Bat-gear and the training to use it. What seems to be missing is the other half of the training: The discipline to NOT use these toys.

In scenario training, cops are taught to keep a level head and remain in control of criminal situations with the intention of “de-escalation” so that an otherwise violent or tragic scenario can be settled without major injury or death. During my time as a scenario actor, I watched my role devolve from “Do everything you can to make the officer think” to “Don’t resist, you’re caught.” This progression happened over the course of two years. The emphasis had moved from educating the cadets to making sure that as many graduated the academy as possible. And yes, that should make you worried.

If New Mexico’s training is any indication, that means some cops are being sent out into the real world with a gun and no reason to not use it. When they enter high stress, complex scenarios which characterize the day-to-day issues that a police officer must face, they are (supposedly) trained to keep the impulses of rampant adrenaline and testosterone at bay and do their jobs, which is to de-escalate and maintain control. Not linebacker-tackle 120 pound actors to the concrete or shoot black men in staircases because they’re nervous. That’s what fucking rookies who can’t control their dick do.

In the last few months, we’re seeing the results of these officers being allowed to go about their jobs. Untrained or undisciplined officers are allowing the moment to get the best of them and the bodies are piling up. What’s worse is that the police unions are responding by circling the wagons, protecting their own, and claiming there’s a war on police like they’re soldiers in a fucking war.  And unless something is done to correct this FROM THE POLICE SIDE, we are going to see this same cycle of civilian murder, protest, and counter-violence against cops play out through 2015 and beyond. Rant over, let’s move on.

FLANK THAT JAYWALKER! FIRE! FIRE!

Other Shit

  • In the ultimate You’re Not Helping Story of 2014, Greenpeace breaks onto sacred ground in Peru and sets up one of their cloying, hubris-driven installations at the Nazca Lines and ruin just about everything with their stupid fat hippie feet.
  • All those sanctions and economic sabotage against Russia finally come back to bite Putin as interest rates skyrocket and the ruble drops in value faster than your childhood Pokemon cards. It’s already to the point where they’re putting a price cap on vodka. Maybe you’ll think next time before invading a sovereign nation in the Information Age, dickhead.
  • In a move that no doubt has nothing to do with Russia’s economic woes, the Ukrainians and pro-Russia rebels finally enter peace negotiations.
  • In more shady government news, the Senate releases a report chronicling the torture techniques used against detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Revelations in the report include the fact that we went to Iraq over false information, lied about water boarding, Bruce Willis being dead throughout The Sixth Sense, and Darth Vader (brace yourself) being Luke’s father.
  • Something something Sony, something something The Interview. I already have a headache.
  • Not content to end the year without one more headline-grabbing slaughter, the Pakistani al-Qaeda storms a trade school and massacres over one hundred students and teachers. Pakistan responded by being all “Anything you can do I can do better” and hung five hundred al-Qaeda prisoners. Honestly, who needs Game of Thrones when you have the Middle East?
  • On the other side of the pond, a single radical Muslim gunman takes a handful of Australians hostage in a candy shop because Allah demands chocolate or something.
  • Gas prices drop across the nation with the help of President Obama’s Magic Gas Price Lever© that he keeps in the Oval Office.
  • Speaking of Obama, he continued his new role as President Troll by re-opening relations with our evil socialist friends in Cuba. FOX tells its interns that they’ll have to come in for work on Christmas and New Years, otherwise they’re gonna get backed up.
  • Finally, just to put a cork on the whole goddamn year, we lose one last motherfucking plane.

Anyway kids, that was the year that was. If you feel I missed anything, read your own goddamn news next time. See you next year!

Drink lots, drive safe, and don’t fucking fly anywhere in Asia.

Fireworks streak past in front of the supermoon outside the town of Mosta

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