Friday, January 08, 2016

MMXV - Just like MMXIV, only different

cover story

The planet that we call home completed yet another voyage around the Sun, taking us on a 365 day journey that was exciting and uplifting at times, and downright heartbreaking at others. Here’s a quick recap of what went down in 2015.

- Baga massacres: Militant group Boko Haram razed the town of Baga in Nigeria, killing hundreds (or, by some estimates, maybe even more than 2,000) people in the region. The world reacted by hardly batting an eyelid.
In the following months, ISIS bombings in Kobanî, Syria claimed 220 precious lives (June); a suicide bomb in Ankara, Turkey killed 100 innocent people (October); and a bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, left 43 dead (November). The world barely noticed.
- Charlie Hebdo shootings: An attack by Al-Qaeda gunmen on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo (which is known for its irreverent content) left a dozen people dead. The world mourned. 
A subsequent barbaric attack, this time by ISIS terrorists, in Paris claimed 130 lives in November. The world wept.
Apparently, tragedies are tragicer when they happen in the West.
- Egyptian archaeological discovery: A Czech archaeological team discovered the tomb of formerly unknown Ancient Egyptian queen Khentakawess III (possibly the wife of pharaoh Neferefre) who lived during the Fifth Dynasty, a time when people did not have electricity, running water, natural gas in pipelines, and fuel at petrol pumps … so quite like Pakistan in 2015.

- 87th Academy Awards: A ceremony that reflected a small subset’s limited taste in films was held to honour the subjectively “best” cinematic work of the year. People thought it was a big deal, for some reason. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) won the Best Picture award, and also won Alejandro G. Iñárritu the Best Director gong. Eddie Redmayne was deemed the Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and Julianne Moore won the Best Actress trophy for her performance in Still Alice.

- Airplane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 (which was on its way from Spain to Germany) into the French Alps, killing all 144 passengers and six crew members onboard. Another aviation tragedy – the deadliest of the year – happened in October, when Metrojet Flight 9268, en route from Egypt to Russia, disintegrated above Sinai, killing all 217 passengers and seven crew members; ISIS claimed responsibility for bombing the craft. Also, in July, some debris from the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 aircraft, which disappeared in March 2014, was found on Réunion Island, but the bulk of the plane still remains missing.
- 2015 ICC World Cup: The 11th cricket World Cup took place in Australia and New Zealand. Host Australia continued to annoy us by being stupidly good at cricket, and won the trophy for the millionth fifth time. Pakistan, meanwhile, made a cameo appearance in the tournament, just to remind the world that we still have absolutely no interest in winning anything. International cricket did, however, finally return to our country after a 6 year absence, when the Zimbabwe Cricket Team toured Pakistan in May.

- Gorkha earthquake: Nature’s fury hit Asia hard when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, leaving entire villages flattened, making hundreds of thousands of people homeless, and causing over 8,850 casualties in Nepal and more than 9,000 deaths overall. Later in the year, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the Hindu Kush region (and was followed by several aftershocks) in October, ten years after the devastating Kashmir earthquake; 279 people in Pakistan lost their lives, with the region suffering a total toll of nearly 400 deaths.
- Apple watch unveiled: Wearable tech was all the rage this year and the most coveted gadget was the Apple Watch. Yes, Apple released yet another thing you don’t really need (but really want) at a price you can’t really afford. It even came in a US$17,000 edition so that henceforth we can easily identify any pompous jerks in our midst.

- Picasso painting auction: Spanish painter Pablo Picasso’s glorified ancient graffiti amazing specimen of modern art known as Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) became the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction when it was bought – in a shameless showcase of wealth inequality – for US$179 million by an anonymous buyer. The 1955 painting went into a private collection and will no longer assault our eyes let us revel in its artistic awesomeness.

- FIFA shakeup: Cases of bribery and corruption in FIFA came to the fore. “What? Corruption in sports?!! You don’t say!” we gasped, and then rolled our eyes just to drive the point home. The FBI-led investigation indicted several current and former football officials, including FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was suspended and then banned for eight years.

- Greek debt crisis: Still facing financial difficulties, Greece missed a payment to the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first advanced economy to do so in IMF’s history. The country also tried – and failed – to finance their deficit by asking Germany for World War II reparations, compensating them for damages for a war that ended 70 years ago. Other countries were left wondering if maybe they should now ask Greece for damages for Alexander the Great’s battles.
- Pluto images: Pluto posed for its close up, as the clearest photos of its surface were beamed to Earth by the New Horizons probe. Earthlings found the pictures of a spherical rock endlessly fascinating.

- European refugee crisis: The influx of refugees from war torn regions – like those displaced by the Syrian Civil War, which has caused millions to flee their homes – resulted in Europe facing its worst refugee crisis since WWII. The plight of those who travelled over harsh terrains and rough waters in search of a better future broke our hearts.

- Water on Mars: NASA announced that it had confirmed evidence that briny water flows on the surface of the red planet. Humanity predictably responded by trying to figure out how to ruin yet another planet by draining its resources.
Meanwhile, back here on Earth, hundreds of millions of people continued to suffer because of a lack of clean water. They did not make the headlines.
- Mina stampede: In the deadliest Hajj disaster in history, over 2,400 pilgrims lost their lives in a stampede. A couple of weeks prior, a crane crash in Mecca had resulted in more than 100 fatalities.
- Homo naledi discovered: The discovery of a new, extinct species of early humans was announced in South Africa, so we now know that we have yet another branch of ancestors who must be disappointed with how their descendants have turned out.
- Super Blood Moon eclipse: The heavens put on a show when the Earth and Moon aligned for a rare total lunar eclipse that coincided with a supermoon. Excitedly, we pointed our cameras towards the sky and took lots of photos; after the not-so-super results, we had to concede that we might need better cameras. As for those of you who missed it, you can catch the next one in September 2033.
- Jawani Phir Nahi Ani success: After more-than-usual activity in Pakistani cinema over the summer, Nadeem Baig’s comedy film Jawani Phir Nahi Ani came out and soon become the biggest Pakistani film of 2015, then went on to break the all time record, earning the title of the highest-grossing Pakistani film ever.
Globally, the biggest films of the year were:
1. Jurassic World (US$1.669 billion) – the reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise
2. Furious 7 ($1.515 billion) – the seventh instalment in the Fast and the Furious series
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.405 billion) – Marvel’s superhero crossover, the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers
(And it’s safe to presume that the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens will soon join this list, as it has been busy breaking earning records in the last few weeks.)

- Imran Khan’s short-lived second marriage: A week after tweeting that “The reports of my marriage are greatly exaggerated!” and mangling a Mark Twain quote in the process by substituting “death” with “marriage” (because that’s obviously an excellent omen), Imran Khan married “former TV weather girl” Reham Khan in January, making her the most infamous woman in the country. Much gossiping ensued when they announced their divorce in October.

- Adele’s 25: The massive success of Adele’s long awaited third album 25 proved once and for all that people love whiny music. The record sold by the bucket load and topped the charts in many countries all over the world.
- Russian doping scandal: The world staged an intervention for Russia because of their athletes’ inability to not take performance enhancing drugs during the 2012 London Olympics. “Pot, kettle, black,” Russia replied.

- San Bernardino tragedy: An attack by a couple of Pakistani descent left 14 people dead in the 353rd incident of mass shooting in America in 2015, as the country continued to grapple with the issue of gun violence. Earlier in the year, nine African Americans were killed by a white gunman during a prayer service at a church in Charleston (June) which had played an important role in the Black Lives Matter movement; two people were killed when a man opened fire during a showing of the film Trainwreck in Louisiana (July); and a news reporter and cameraman were gunned down by a former colleague on live television in Virginia (August).
- COP 21 summit: In a small, unspecific, non-binding victory for planet Earth at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, humans realized that maybe we might want to reduce emissions and limit global warming on Earth because, you know, it’s the only home we have.

So much happened in 2015. We debated whether that stupid dress was white and gold or black and blue; found out that Back to the Future had lied to us about hoverboards; were confusingly impressed (despite ourselves) by Justin Bieber’s comeback; and were left uncertain whether to be amused or horrified (or perhaps a bit of both at the same time) by Donald Trump’s U.S. Presidential bid.

But ultimately, it was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times. Here’s hoping the coming year moves us closer to the better end of the spectrum instead of dragging us in the wrong direction.

Happy New Year, everyone!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 1st January, 2016 *

No comments: