Saturday, December 29, 2012


cover story

The world rolled along the same as ever, as humanity continued its freefall for yet another year in 2012. And the fact that it was a leap year meant we had an extra day to plunge a little deeper into the abyss that is our existence. 2012 wasn’t a complete write-off though, as we did make some advances in science, inspired each other by attempting daring feats, and came together to raise our voices against oppression and injustice. Here’s what we were up to during the last 366 days…

- The Year of Cooperatives: 2012 was declared the International Year of Cooperatives by the UN to highlight the importance and “contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation, and social integration”. Here’s hoping the UN can declare 2013 as the Year of Mass Communication so that they can themselves learn how to reach out to the public and actually inform us about these kinds of things for a change.
- U.S. tornadoes: A tornado outbreak in the Southern United States caused millions of dollars of damage, but tornados weren’t the only natural disasters that hit the world this year. Adding to our worry were earthquakes, hurricanes, and typhoons that devastated thousands of people. The East Azerbaijan earthquakes (August) stole over 300 lives in Iran, becoming the deadliest earthquake of the year. Hurricane Sandy (October) struck North America, killing over 250 people. And the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Bopha (November), which resulted in over 900 fatalities, and left over 800 people missing.

- Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: The 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne marked one of the most important events of the year, and we’re using the word important quite incorrectly here. Later in the year, various members of the British Royal Family were also embroiled in some controversies. Kate found out the hard way that if you’re famous, then you really shouldn’t do anything outside your home that you don’t want the whole world to see. Harry discovered why excessive partying and playing strip billiards aren’t a very good idea. And we all learned that crank calls aren’t funny; and, humiliating people for a laugh is both crass and dangerous.
- Academy Awards: Hollywood continued its self-indulgent back-patting with its usual line-up of award shows. At the head of the pack were the 84th Academy Awards, which saw the genuinely delightful The Artist (2011) take home the coveted Best Picture award, as well as four other Oscars, including the Best Director prize for Michel Hazanavicius, and the Best Actor trophy for Jean Dujardin. Meryl Streep won the Best Actress honour for her role in The Iron Lady (2011). Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became Pakistan’s first female Oscar winner, when Saving Face (2012), the documentary she directed with Daniel Junge, won the golden statuette in the Best Documentary, Short Subject category. (And yes, we’re still quite miffed that little Uggie wasn’t awarded a Best Animal Actor trophy!)
- Arab Spring: The ongoing Arab Spring movement continued to reshape the Middle East. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was succeeded by Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi in February; Mohamed Morsi because the President of Egypt in June; Mohammed Magariaf was anointed the Chairman of the General National Congress of Libya in August; while unrest continued in countries including Bahrain and Syria.

- James Cameron’s deep sea dive: Canadian film director James Cameron became the first person to reach the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth, in a solo trip, piloting the Deepsea Challenger craft. He had supposedly realised that humanity has hit rock bottom and wanted to try and find it …
- Encyclopædia Britannica: 244 years after first publishing their encyclopaedia in 1768, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. announced that it would not produce any new print editions of the encyclopaedia. Trees of the world heaved a collective sigh of relief.

- Siachen avalanche: As wonderful as nature is, it can sometimes be heartbreakingly brutal, as it was when the avalanche in the Siachen region hit a Pakistani military camp. 124 soldiers and 11 civilians were buried under the snow and lost their lives.
- Bhoja Air crash: Another tragedy struck when Bhoja Air Flight 213 crashed while travelling from Karachi to Islamabad, killing its 121 passengers and six crew members. This was one of a number of aviation accidents of the year, the deadliest of which happened in Nigeria in June, when the Dana Air Flight 992, travelling from Abuja to Lagos, crashed, killing all 153 people on board.

- Russian elections: Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev switched positions, and went from being the Prime Minister and President to becoming the President and Prime Minister respectively. Because, you know, change is important.
- The Scream auction: The sale of a pastel version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream set a world record, earning the highest nominal price for a painting at auction. It was sold for US$120 million … a sum that left us with a suspiciously similar facial expression as that of the figure in the painting.
- Tokyo Skytree opened: The world’s tallest self-supporting tower, Tokyo Skytree, which is 634 metres high, was opened to public, and instantly gave all the other towers in the world an inferiority complex.
- The Avengers released: The Avengers raked in $1.5 billion at the box office, becoming the most successful film of the year. The Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises and the Bond film Skyfall eventually ended up second and third on 2012’s highest grossing list respectively.

- Solar transit of Venus: The century’s second transit of Venus across the Sun took place and lasted for six hours and 40 minutes. For those of you who missed it, don’t worry; all you have to do is live for another 105 years and you can catch the next one in December 2117.
- IBM Sequoia: The IBM Sequoia (America) replaced the K computer (Japan) as the world’s fastest supercomputer, performing at a speed of 16.32 petaflops, 55 percent faster than the K computer’s 10.51 petaflops. How many petaflops till they rise and start taking over the world, does anyone know? Should we be concerned yet?
- ‘Gangnam Style’: Korean rapper PSY’s infectiously grating hit ‘Gangnam Style’ drilled its way into our brains when it went viral after its video was uploaded on YouTube, eventually taking over the world and becoming a global phenomenon. Its signature dance moves were then performed by lots of people around the world, including singers, actors, athletes, and reportedly even British Prime Minister David Cameron!
- Pakistani government: After Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani’s disqualification and ouster for contempt of court, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan, continuing our leaders’ incessant game of political musical chairs. As they say, nothing is certain but death, taxes, load shedding, and sporadic changes in the Pakistani government.
- Fifty Shades of Grey's success: Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy may have become the best-selling series of all time on Amazon this year, but it was the massive success of E. L. James’ erotic series that really grabbed the headlines. Fifty Shades of Grey became the fastest selling paperback of all time in Britain, and sold millions of copies all over the world. Frankly, between this and the rise of Honey Boo Boo, we’re not sure humanity should be allowed to continue to exist anymore.

- Higgs boson discovery: The much sought after and notoriously elusive Higgs boson may or may not have been observed after experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. This may or may not be a monumental discovery of historic significance. We may or may not be very excited about this.
- Summer Olympics: The 2012 Summer Olympics were held in London, where the best physical specimens of humankind gathered to make the rest of us feel like unfit, lazy slobs. Wrecking our self-esteem the most was American swimmer Michael Phelps, who became the most decorated Olympian ever with a total of 22 medals. Topping the country medal count tallies were 1) United States (46 gold, 29 silver, 29 bronze), 2) China (38 G, 27 S, 23 B), and 3) Great Britain (29 G, 17 S, 19 B), while Pakistan met expectations with our usual tally of 0 gold, 0 silver, and 0 bronze. We did redeem ourselves later in the year though, winning the Asia Kabaddi Cup (November), triumphing at the IBSF World Snooker Championship with Muhammad Asif winning the tournament (December), and finishing third in the Hockey Champions Trophy (December).

- Curiosity landing: NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in the Gale Crater on Mars, travelling thousands of miles in search of a friend, only to find that nobody was home. Or, it might’ve gone there to study the planet. Either way, the Martians didn’t show up to welcome it. We’re disappointed.
- Lance Armstrong doping scandal: Good news everyone: now we all have the same number of Tour de France titles as Lance Armstrong does! Bad news Lance Armstrong: you don’t have any Tour de France titles anymore. After being stripped of all his accolades since August 1998 for using performance-enhancing drugs and being banned from professional cycling for life, Armstrong responded by calling the cheating allegations a “witch hunt”, and said he is “finished with this nonsense”.
- Eid: Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated on one of a number of days after everyone disagreed to agree on the sighting of the moon. Eid-ul-Azha followed, with considerably less controversy, in October.

- Innocence of Muslims trailer: The trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims on YouTube caused anger in the Muslim world, and led to protests in many countries, which resulted in a number of deaths. The video was subsequently blocked by YouTube in some countries, while YouTube was blocked by other countries, including Pakistan.
- Factory fires: Fire wrecked havoc multiple times during the year. Fires broke out in factories in Karachi (garment factory) and Lahore (shoe factory), killing more than 300 people and injuring dozens more. Also, a fire at a prison in Honduras killed over 350 inmates (February); a Bangladesh factory fire killed more than 100 workers (November); Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of the Congo, was ravaged by fires after a series of explosions at a munitions dump that left more than 250 people dead; and 79 people died due to rioting and fire at an Egyptian soccer match (February) in the worst incident of football violence in Egyptian history. And as with both fire and rioting, terrorism also continued to make periodic appearances throughout the year and left with a considerable toll.
- iPhone 5 release: Apple released its iPhone 5 smartphone so that everyone could start speculating about iPhone 6. Fans rushed to buy iPhone 5 on the day of its release – presumably because they were concerned it would be outdated by the time they reached the store – then marvelled at the gadget in their hands for about ten seconds before immediately falling into a deep depression over the fact that it wasn’t an iPhone 6. Apple also released the iPad 3 tablet, and then, just for laughs, released the iPad 4 a few months later.

- Felix Baumgartner’s space dive: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just an Austrian dude skydiving from the edge of space. As part of the Red Bull Stratos space diving project, and with enough sponsor’s logos plastered everywhere to prompt a logo counting contest, daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier without any machine assistance, after jumping out of a helium-filled balloon from 39 kilometres (24 miles) into the stratosphere over New Mexico, because that seems like a perfectly sane thing to do. Oh and in case you missed the very subtle marketing, the project was largely sponsored by Red Bull. As they say, one small step for man, one giant leap for advertising!

- U.S. Presidential elections: A few months after slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon and thereby certifying himself as the hippest head of state ever, U.S. President Barack Obama won a second term in office, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney. A few days later, CIA Director David Petraeus resigned after having an extramarital affair. Yes, a man cheated on his wife; our lack of shock is astounding. Elsewhere, France dumped Nicolas Sarkozy in favour of François Hollande (April); Greece elected a new parliament – twice (May, June) – amidst continuing economic woes; Mali ousted its president in a coup (March); and Kiribati held elections (January) in hopes that we’d notice it exists. Mission accomplished, Kiribati!
- Malala assassination attempt: 14 year old student and education activist Malala Yousafzai was shot and injured in an assassination attempt but survived the attack.
- Operation Pillar of Defence: To make sure that we don’t inadvertently have a year without death and destruction in the Palestinian territories and Israel, the cycle of violence continued in the region, killing nearly 150 people in the process.

- 12-12-12: At 12:12pm on the 12th day of the 12th month of the year 2012, nothing noteworthy happened.

- Apocalypse averted: The Mayans lost all credibility as the world failed to come to an end on the 21st of December. So the world didn’t end, but the year now comes to a close. But keep your hopes up, doomsday enthusiasts – maybe the world will end in 2013; keep your fingers crossed!

And with that we say goodbye to 2012, and hope that the next 365 days bring us more joy and less load shedding than the last 366 did. Happy New Year everyone!

- Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 28th December, 2012

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