From the HyperVocal.com Editorial braintrust:
Think back 50 weeks. Think hard. Do you remember how 2011 began? Do you remember the epic absurdity that kick-started a year described by nearly everyone as one of the most significant spans in recent memory? That's right: Birds fell straight from the sky, fish and crabs turned up dead.
How amazingly ominous the global Aflockalypse turned out to be. Could there have possibly been a more appropriate beginning to a year marked by such remarkable, everlasting turmoil?
Fifty weeks since the End of Days seemed nigh, we're coming quickly upon the final moments of a year that brought us more hard news, light nonsense and Internet-addled excitement than we could ever have predicted would fill our 24-hour, attention-deficit media cycle. Just think: Osama. Occupy. Pepper Spray. Greece. Tsunami. Royal Wedding. Winehouse. Jobs. Egypt. Arab Spring. Phone Hacking. Norway. Gadhafi. Sandusky. Weiner. Sheen. Trump. Cain. Casey Anthony. Tebow! All in one year.
It's likely you remember all of those stories, and it's likely that you'll see most or all of them on every single news organization's boring ol' Top 10 Stories of 2011 pieces. So we thought we'd remind you of some stories you may have forgotten took place in 2011, stories that have justifiably been trumped by the big stuff. Consider this the memory test portion of an exit interview from the greatest job you've held.
The first viral story of 2011 belonged to an eagle-eyed Columbus Dispatch videographer and a down-on-his-luck voice-over artist. Put it this way: For the past year, mentioning the name "Ted Williams" conjured up an image of a (hopefully) former addict holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road, not one of the greatest (cryogenically frozen) baseball players that ever lived. Quite an accomplishment. Two days after the Dispatch's video captured the attention of the Internet's force for good, the Cleveland Cavaliers offered Williams a job and a home. MSNBC offered him work. So did Kraft Foods. He landed on the Today Show on January 6th, three days into his newfound fame. But it all soon unraveled. Williams, who said he had been sober since mid-2008, began drinking again when the media spotlight shined too bright. After a talk with Dr. Phil, Williams checked himself into rehab. Then he checked out 12 days later.
In May, with the media attention gone, Williams checked back into a rehab facility, citing emotional problems, not addiction. Since then, the Cavs retracted their job offer. Book and television deals negotiated while the going was good were also rescinded. There is one bright spot: New England Cable News announced in November that Williams would be the official voice of its cable channel.
Back in August, an 18-year-old Olympic skiing hopeful named Robert Vietze pissed away his chance at medal glory when on a red-eye JetBlue flight he R. Kelly'd the leg of a young girl. Less than a week later, French actor Gerard Depardieu took the same cue on a Paris-to-Dublin flight, defied a direct order, yelled "I want to piss, I want to piss" and urinated on the floor of the aircraft. The best part? A CityJet spokesperson said "It all happened with courtesy" when questioned by the media. Cyrano, at least, had a sense of humor about himself and the incident -- he poked fun in a video plug for the next installment of the Astérix series, which is scheduled for 2012 release. Heh, release.
It was supposed to be a day for Rupert Murdoch and his son James to answer for their perceived sins in the phone-hacking scandal that justifiably captivated the world. But all of that was tabled, quite literally, when the inquisition at the UK Parliament took a turn for the dramatic. A man calling himself Johnny Marbles interrupted the hearing and attempted to hit Murdoch in the face with a plate of shaving foam while shouting, "You are a greedy billionaire." Murdoch's wife, Wendi, came to her hubby's defense by taking a swing at the foam attacker. Marbles, real name Jonathan May-Bowles, was sentenced to six weeks in jail, and his last tweet before heading off to the clink was an "lol" in reply to @hypervocal.
Before there was Anthony Weiner, there was Chris Lee. The Upstate New York Republican resigned in disgrace back in February after Gawker published relatively bland and sexless emails between the buffed-up 46-year-old and a woman looking for company. Lee bowed out without even a defense, which at the time was curious. It turned out that there was more Gawker investigating to be done -- Lee was looking for a few good transgendered persons. Too each their own. We didn't take exception to his Don't Ask Don't Tell hypocrisy as much as with his Craigslist skills and broke down his biggest transgressions: he used his real name, he sent an unprovoked shirtless pic way too early (nice try, Swayze) and in his biggest fantasies involving anonymous rendezvous, he's a lobbyist. How dirty. Oh, and the race to fill his seat gave us the real-life Jack Klompus. Jerry, take the pen!
In the Middle East, they rioted for freedom, for liberty, for democracy. In Greece, they're fighting for their pensions, for their jobs, for their future. In the United States, they're protesting income inequality, a rigged system, a sense of unfairness. In Canada...HEY, WE LOST THE STANLEY CUP! FREAK OUT! The only upside to this shameful episode was how captivated we all were by this incredible, instantly iconic image shot by Getty Images' Richard Lam. The "kissing couple," later identified as 29-year-old Australian Scott Jones and his Canadian girlfriend Alex Thomas, weren't having a sexy, exciting time as much as the photo simply captured a man aiding his injured girlfriend in a truly confusing scene.
The state of Georgia on September 21st executed inmate Troy Davis as outraged supporters continued to proclaim the man's innocence. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary reprieve while it read through Davis's last-ditch appeal, but ultimately it denied Davis' motion for a stay of execution. Davis spent his last hours strapped to a gurney waiting for the decision. In 2007, Georgia's State Board of Pardons and Paroles said it "will not allow an execution to proceed in this state unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." So what changed between 2007 and 2011? Nothing really. Words were just words. The words "there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused" rang as hollow as our system of justice. No doubt, we need a new standard for the death penalty.
Ken Jennings turned to the wisdom of faux newsman Kent Brockman during the third and final night of Jeopardy!'s much-hyped IBM Challenge. With the artificially intelligent Watson firmly ahead of Jennings and fellow human challenger Brad Rutter, the former 74-time champion scribbled "I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords" along with his correct Final Jeopardy! answer. Watson dominated Jeopardy!'s two greatest human winners, overcoming the mistake of thinking Toronto was a U.S. city to rack up $77,147, compared to $24,000 for Jennings and $21,600 for Brad Rutter. Watson's fast, had a deep, well-rounded knowledge base and makes odd wagers that made the audience laugh. But there was also great amounts of comedy in the answers Watson didn't give. For those of you who didn't watch any of the three broadcasts, directly after Alex Trebek finished asking every question (or the answer?), a graphic would appear containing Watson's top three choices and its confidence level in each. If Watson's confidence surpassed a certain threshold, it would ring in. And if you paid close attention to the second and third choices on Watson's list, you were no doubt as amused as we were. Here are some favorites.
The Internet: Where the men are men, the women are also men, and the children are FBI agents.
Mid-June brought us the absurd story of how the mysterious disappearance of a lesbian blogger in Syria led to the revelation that two dudes flirted with each other pretending to be women who like women on the Internet. It all started when Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, a popular out Syrian-American lesbian blogger who wrote under the name A Gay Girl in Damascus, shockingly went missing on Monday, June 6th. But when NPR went digging, it found no records of her existed in real life. That's because she didn't. Amina was really Aman. Well, a man. As the hints of fraud piled higher, Tom MacMaster, the 40-year-old married and bearded dude seen here, came clean that he was, in fact, Amina. NPR had help in outing MacMaster, namely from Paula Brooks, the executive editor of a lesbian news site called LezGetReal. But Brooks herself came under suspicion. That's when a man named Bill Graber came clean that he was indeed Brooks. Oh, The Internets -- how we love thee for all that you are.
A video from 2004 uploaded to YouTube on October 27th shows a man severely beating a girl with a belt. The level of venom and violence in each lash cannot even be measured -- it's painful to watch, painful to not watch, painful to know you can't jump through the screen and intervene. The girl apparently downloaded music and games from the Internet that were not available for legal purchase. The father, a Texas court-at-law judge named William Adams, didn't take too kindly to that. Perhaps she might be excused for her transgressions due to the fact that she was born with ataxic cerebral palsy. Nope, no leniency. Judge not lest ye be beaten harshly? Hillary Adams and her mother spoke to the Today Show about the abuse, and Adams has since been suspended with pay while state officials investigate.
Here's what the news cycle is like in 2011: Old man says the world is going to end. Nobody believes him. Yet the world stops anyway. Mostly to laugh and point. Mostly to gawk. But for a few days in May, Harold Camping and the folks at Family Radio held the world's attention with the bold, insane, masterfully incompetent prediction that Judgment Day was upon us. Fitting that this takes the top spot on the countdown, given how the year started with birds falling out of the sky and people looking for answers in science. Of course, when the world didn't end, Camping revised his prediction to October 21, 2011. God didn't like that, and Camping suffered a karmic stroke in June. The 90-year-old has since retired from the Doomsday Predictions game, and the media has given up its fascination with taking the word of 90-year-olds seriously. Well, except for Betty White. Everything she says is gold.
What does 2012 hold in store for us? Like the Mayans, make your predictions in the comments...
AS WE CLOSE DOWN 2011, MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT:
• 2011: The Year Beyond Words
• And the 2011 Mother of the Year Is...
• 2011 Cinescape: The Year in Movies
• And TIME's "Person of the Year" Is...