All the world's a stage.
Whether you're a news junkie looking to read about some of the year's most compelling stories you might have missed, or you're a creative type looking for some narrative inspiration, the collection below is a must read as we come to the close of 2013. Don't be surprised to see them adapted for the screen some point down the road.
1. A grizzled man in a dress breaks down societal norms in the wild west.
Sissy Goodwin, a cross-dresser in the Cowboy State of Wyoming, was the focus of a lengthy profile in the L.A. Times this year. Goodwin has been wearing women's clothes most of his life, a decision that has led to his honorable discharge from the Air Force during the Vietnam War, violent attacks and daily name-calling. He isn't gay, and has two children with his wife of 45 years. Goodwin used to be a rodeo cowboy, but now teaches the science of heavy machinery at Casper College, where he dresses however he pleases. As the nation continues to struggle to evolve into a more accepting place for everyone, Goodwin's story is a compelling character story of a man who dares to challenge our idea of masculinity.
2. Teachers rise up in a country teetering on the brink of failure to live up to the world's expectations.
Riots broke out between protesters and riot police in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, after 5,000 demonstrators peacefully marched on the nationally recognized "Teacher's Day." During the protest, someone spray-painted the words, "Get Out FIFA," high on the wall of Rio’s municipal chamber, as hundreds of onlookers cheered. With Rio set to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, this riot between teachers and the state might have been the perfect embodiment of Brazil's struggle to overcome its past of corruption and mismanagement and convince citizens that the government still has the people's priorities in mind.
3. A New York City landmark of street art is literally whitewashed amid an escalating debate over gentrification and the value of outsider art.
Up until this year, the 5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center in Queens, New York was considered the world's premiere destination for "graffiti art," and the 200,000-square-foot building was covered from ground to ceiling with various works in that medium. On Nov. 19th, the building was painted over completely in white. It was seen as a move by developers attempting to quash a community effort to have the building protected ahead of a scheduled demolition that would see the property turned into a $400 million residential project. Recently refreshed arguments of what constitutes "good" graffiti art (Banksy did a New York City residence in October) and the growing problem of gentrification in New York City made the demise of 5 Pointz especially compelling in 2013.
4. A Dutch mother and son are comically over-cautious and become a "highlighter family."
This bright mother and son pair were discovered driving around Wassenaar, Netherlands in 2013. The two regularly travel with full highlighter safety gear and vehicles tricked out with, a "large amount and variety of horns, bells, claxons and sirens." They live by the motto, "Be Safe, Be Seen" and try to remain as risk free as possible while driving. Although not much is known about their backstory, if only from the picture above, this mother and son highlighter duo already seem straight out of a Pixar movie.
5. A folk hero with an acoustic guitar dreams of becoming president of the United States.
Rick Hohensee wants to become the President of the United States and he doesn't want to wait for an election. He's advocating for a constitutional amendment that would put him in power and would save us from the two-party system. He protested outside the White House on April 7th with a box over his head and played guitar for passersby, but he's a fairly regular staple outside government buildings in Washington D.C. Hohensee, a liberal, believes Obama is too conservative, wants George W. Bush thrown in jail and wishes the country would legalize "herbs."
Despite his eccentric persona, many would agree with Hohensee's mantra. "The real point, though, is not me becoming president, but that it is time for the American people to trust each other, rather than their hopelessly rotten government, which only absolute fools trust any more, and call a Constitutional convention to overhaul the joint," he says. At a time when distrust of government and dissatisfaction with its leaders is reaching an all time high, it could be deeply refreshing -- if not entertaining -- to follow the life of someone who so unabashedly expresses his right to free speech while still pursuing and believing in some remaining semblance of the American Dream.
6. The fast food and delivery workers we've come to rely on rise up and demand a living wage in this tough economy, as the wealthy in America continue to get richer.
The average age of fast-food workers is now 29, despite the misconception that it's largely a teenage-dominated field. While ordering delivery has gained popularity in the United States, especially in cities with the newly merged Seamless/GrubHub, the wages of the workers behind the system have gone mostly unchanged despite the increasingly demanding expectations for speed and quality. Fast food workers are beginning to protest and the conversation of raising the minimum wage is picking up steam. The New York Times recently released a profile of a 58-year-old man named Eduardo Shoy who works two fast food delivery jobs at $7.25 an hour and a nightshift as a forklift operator every day to provide for his family. He slept for 13 hours and worked for 44 over a string of days around Thanksgiving. Whether you can relate as a consumer, an employee or simply an American, this story needs to be told more broadly.
7. The first flight of the Munduruku natives and the battle for the Amazon.
The Munduruku people live in the Amazon River basin and are indigenous to the region. The Brazilian government angered the Mundurku with plans to build a $13 billion dam that would flood their homes and force them to change their way of life. In an effort to trick them off their land following their protests on the building site, the government flew the tribe to the city of Brasilia for a meeting, the first time many of the Munduruku had been on a plane. After talks broke down, members of the tribe protested outside government buildings and collapsed on the street to symbolize dead bodies. A resolution has not yet been agreed upon, and the dam is still being built.
8. The career of Iranian-American band, The Yellow Dogs.
On Nov. 11th, two of the members of The Yellow Dogs were murdered in Brooklyn, New York by another Iranian musician. The Iranian-American band was formed in Tehran, where their music was considered illegal due to it not being approved by Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. They were featured in the award-winning film, "No One Knows About Persian Cats," which followed multiple Iranian bands attempting to evade capture by authorities simply for playing rock music.
9. Conquering the largest waves ever.
What if Patrick Swayze had successfully surfed that huge wave at the end of "Point Break?" In January, the 45-year-old Garrett McNamara broke his own record for largest wave ever ridden, surfing one in Nazaré, Portugal that towered around 100-feet tall, 22-feet higher than his previous record. But the record wave wasn't the end of his year. In June, McNamara also became the first person to surf on a tsunami wave caused by a falling piece of the 300-foot tall Child's Glacier, in south-central Alaska. The story doesn't end there, however, as Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle may have topped McNamara's 100-foot wave record late this year, also in Nazaré, Portugal, adding a rival to the intrigue.
10. The wedding between an 8-year-old and a 61-year-old.
Eight-year-old Sanele Masilela married 61-year-old Helen Shabangu, in Tshwane, South Africa this year. The ceremony took place after the boy's deceased grandfather requested that Masilele have an expensive wedding, because he was never able to do so himself. In Masilele and Shabangu's culture, all requests made by ancestors are honored, meaning the wedding was celebrated in the community, despite the huge age difference and the fact that Shabangu was already married with two children. Although in the end this ceremony wasn't actually legally binding and was more a ritual for the ancestors than for love, the symbolic cultural gesture is powerful, and the visual contrasts between the two marrying parties are striking.
11. A man and his dog fly over the world.
Dan McManus and his dog, Shadow, have been flying together for nine years, but it wasn't until this year that the duo started receiving national attention. Shadow is a psychiatric service dog that helps McManus with separation anxiety and, thanks a special harness attached to the glider, the two of them can fly together safely. You can learn from the two at McManus' Eagles Nest Hang Gliding & Paragliding company, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, but really this should just become a Disney movie immediately.