Friday, December 27, 2013

Farewell MMXIII, welcome MMXIV

cover story

As it takes each trip around the Sun, patiently spending 365 days to complete every cycle, the Earth and all its inhabitants spend a year changing, evolving, surviving, and, in a few lucky cases, thriving. Each orbital voyage takes us on a collective journey as we watch the world around us develop in unpredictable ways.

The current year, for instance, was as interesting as any. We endured conflicts, protests, attacks, destructive typhoons, earthquakes, and even a powerful meteor strike. We watched as Pope Benedict XVI bowed out and Pope Francis stepped in, obsessed over the birth of a royal baby, and grieved the loss of a legendary anti-apartheid icon. Edward Snowden concerned us, Lance Armstrong disappointed us, Oscar Pistorius horrified us, Miley Cyrus appalled us, Kimye bored us, and Kim Jong-un worried us. Online hoaxes became a norm, 3D printing gained momentum, iPhone 5S made its debut, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 competed for attention, and Iron Man 3 raked in the cash. It was hard to say goodbye to Breaking Bad, significantly easier to say goodbye to Dexter.

And now, one more trip around the Sun later, it’s time to say farewell to 2013, welcome 2014, and see what it has in store for us.

Political landscape
Yes we can’t
It was out with the old, in with the new slightly different version of old in 2013, as the people of Pakistan let hope triumph over experience once again, when they took to the polls to voice their democratic opinion, eventually coming to the collective decision that tsunamis are indeed very overrated. As a result, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain took their respective oaths of office this year and now reign supreme. In the year(s) ahead, we’ll get to reap what we sowed, as we look forward to the long-awaited day when we will finally be able to buy a loaf of bread for a thousand rupees. (At the current rate of inflation, that day will probably be next Tuesday.)
In 2014, Bangladesh, Belgium, India, Hungary, Sweden, Fiji, Brazil, Mozambique, Uruguay, and Lebanon are among the countries scheduled to elect new parliaments, as change will sweep the globe, bringing peace and prosperity to all mankind. (There is however a slight chance that the last bit might not happen.)
Elsewhere, come January, Latvia will become the eighteenth Eurozone country, while Scotland holds its independence referendum in September. And as the United States of America tries to prevent further government meltdowns like the one that happened a few months ago and also get a handle on Obamacare, it will also continue to fume over Edward Snowden’s truth telling mission, while the world will continue to feel the aftershocks of the NSA leaks. The U.S. and the U.K. are also set to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year after maintaining a presence there for 13 years … unless they invoke squatters’ rights which we’re pretty sure suggest that the country is lawfully theirs now.

50 shades of awful
As the hubbub over 50 Shades of Grey shifted from its books to its movie, it was Dan Brown’s Inferno that captured the attention of readers in 2013. The coming year too has a few interesting offerings in store for us from some well known names. Now that J. K. Rowling has been outed as the scribe behind Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, turning the pitifully ignored tome into an instant chart topper, expect its 2014 sequel to make its way to the bestsellers list when it comes out next year. Also expected to publish a sequel is the annoyingly successful Stephenie Meyer, who might unveil The Seeker, the second book in The Host series. And Cassandra Clare also continues her The Mortal Instruments series with its sixth instalment, City of Heavenly Fire (May). G.R.R. Martin offers the A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms collection (June). Ready Player One author Ernest Cline is set to publish his second novel, Armada (July). And Stephen King is likely to issue not one but two tomes: his foray into crime fiction with the detective novel Mr. Mercedes (June), as well as a novel titled Revival.
And for non-fiction fans, memoirs are expected from celebrities including Lea Michele (Brunette Ambition), Demi Lovato, Carlos Santana, and Paul Stanley (Face The Music: A Life Exposed), as well as Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in 2014.

1234: the sequel
Get ready for the overuse of the colon: franchise flicks are here! Just like the year before it, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before … well, you get the drift, prequels and sequels are set to rule the box office in 2014. Most of the highest grossing films of 2013 came from established franchises, and 2014 isn’t likely to be any different. Reunite with old friends, as a number of series unveil their next instalments. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles with his role in the modern world in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April). The young X-Men try to change history in X-Men: Days of Future Past (May). It’s a revamped return for the Transformers series in Transformers 4: Age of Extinction (June). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (November) follows the tradition of splitting the last novel in a series into two flicks, giving us the first instalment of the finale, as Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion. He had to endure twelve labours, we have to endure not one but two movies about him, first the origin story of the Greek demigod (Kellan Lutz) in Hercules: The Legend Begins (January) and then the graphic novel adaptation Hercules: The Thracian Wars (July). And Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his companions wind up their quest in The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December).
Then there’s 300: Rise of An Empire (March), Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (May), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (January), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August) … but worry not, colons aren’t the only thing in copious supply next year, there are also numbers! Enjoy a return to the animated worlds of Rio 2 (April) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June). Watch as Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) tries to balance great power and great responsibility in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May). Get ready for some more ensemble action in The Expendables 3 (August). Prepare to be amused with the arrival of 22 Jump Street (June), Horrible Bosses 2 (November), and Dumb and Dumber To (November). Brace yourself for a fright as Paranormal Activity 5 (October) hits the big screen. And try to fake some excitement for Resident Evil 6 (September).
Other familiar names include I, Frankenstein (January), The Lego Movie (February), RoboCop (February), Muppets Most Wanted (March), Godzilla (May), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August), and the highly anticipated Maleficent (May), the retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the fairytale’s villain (Angelina Jolie).

The (electronic) beat goes on
The EDM oversaturation of 2013 is likely to spill over into 2014, as new music makes its way to our unsuspecting ears in the next 12 months. Glee star Lea Michele makes a Louder debut, Toni Braxton and Babyface join forces to talk about Love, Marriage & Divorce, while Mariah Carey discusses The Art of Letting Go. And best of all, we welcome back Bruce Springsteen, as The Boss returns with High Hopes. New albums are also expected from Adele, Blink-182, Blondie, Chris Brown, Ed Sheeran, The Fray, Foo Fighters, Frank Ocean, fun., Garbage, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and U2, while the confusingly odd pairing of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga unite to give us the record Cheek to Cheek. And if we are unlucky enough, Miley will continue sticking her tongue out as some form of a cruel and unusual punishment for our (clearly numerous) sins.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, things will probably be exactly like they were last year: several bands will announce their plans to release a new album; then most of them won’t. Pakistan will also choose its first Idol who will join the ranks of such global Idol-winning sensations as people-whose-names-we-no-longer-remember.

The art of losing
They doped and cheated and then doped some more, leaving the international sporting arenas significantly sadder and trust deficient.
On the home front ... let’s face it that Pakistan isn’t exactly on top of the world right now as far as sports (or anything else for that matter) are concerned. Our performances have been uneven at best (Pakistani cricket is practically synonymous with unpredictability at this point) and appalling at worst (the fact that we didn’t even qualify for the Hockey World Cup is still too traumatic to process).  Now, 2014 provides us a chance to redeem ourselves. Or a chance to continue being inconsistent.
Either way, the sporting calendar is packed to the seam with events and games in every sport. There is major sporting action to help us cope with the onslaught of both winter and summer. The Winter Olympics head to Sochi, Russia, in February (where Pakistan makes its second appearance and has yet to score a medal), while The Summer Youth Olympic Games take place in August in Nanjing, China (where we will participate in field hockey and weightlifting).
Football fanatics can rejoice as the FIFA World Cup takes us to Brazil in June. The major tennis tournaments will reprise, as Spain’s Rafael Nadal and United States’ Serena Williams try to retain their top spots. Cricket fans can look forward to the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh this spring (March – April), while hockey enthusiasts can catch the Hockey Champions Trophy in India at the end of the year (December). Oh and don’t remind us that the Hockey World Cup will be held in the Netherlands in June next year. Seriously, don’t.

Other than all that, expect solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, and comet sightings. And of course load shedding. Because some things keep happening, no matter what year it is.

Hope you all have an awesome new year!

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 27th December, 2013 *

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