Like any good cliché narrative, the story of 2011 begins where it ends. Not with the ball dropping in Times Square, nor with the slurred declarations of repentant and hopeful drunks, resolving to lose the same ten pounds that they have vowed to shed at calendar’s end every year since college graduation. (Some acquaintances may never be forgot and are much better concealed in the bulky forgiveness of winter clothing.) Nor does this story end with the Bill of Rights, ten years hemorrhaging liberties, finally bleeding out at the feet of a Congress statistically less popular than Stalinism. Crimson rivulets likely drip from the President’s pen by the time you read this, drying rust red and brown on the fresh coat of whitewash lately slathered on the pages of history. 2011 may be remembered- or forgotten -for its Nietzschean descent into madness at the twilight of its days, but that’s not where the story ends or so begins. This yarn spins and comes unspun with an event more important to the Average American than any jinglebell sled ride down the slippery slope to TotalitariTown ever could be: the advent of Timeline.
We may not yet measure epochs by changes to profile layouts, but the Kübler-Ross model of Facebook Grief is so profoundly universal that a casual trip down your Newsfeed would paint the picture of a tragedy on par with something like… I don’t know, the loss of precious American freedoms? First comes Denial. I keep checking Snopes because it has to be a cruel rumor. I fell for the Facebook Gold Account trolling and I’ll be damned if I make that embarrassing mistake again. Next comes Anger. How could they do this to me? The last time they changed things like this, I filled that damn Ticker with Kreayshawn for weeks before I finally logged out of Spotify! I never recovered! Bargaining. Can’t we opt-out? Why should we be forced to do this! Repost this illegible petition if you agree! Depression. This is bullshit, Zuckerberg. I’m deleting my account. Catch you on the +side. “Like” my status if you want the Old Facebook back. And finally, Acceptance. OMG I’m making this my Cover photo! lolololol
When Timeline came along in December to kill 2011 and ruin everyone’s e-lives for the next three weeks or so, I decided to embrace the change fully and without hesitation. Not because I’m an internet progressive or a Facebook fatalist, but because it would provide me easy access to a year’s worth of status updates and, thusly, a really cheap opportunity to write a “Year in Review” article entirely in copypaste. When I sat down to sort through it all, I discovered that my memory was a bit more selective than I imagined, and I seem to have spent considerably more time describing the surreal social impediments of my coworkers than documenting the sociopolitical zeitgeist. I might have my work cut out for me.
I’m writing this in the throes of the New Years Hangover- somewhere between a headache and regretting my entire life –which makes doing research and penning new commentary on old events something of a daunting prospect. Regret is the Hangover’s native language, and I’ll do my best to translate. What follows is the best I can recollect of the dearly departed, 2011, as told in a mishmash of status updates, MSPaint doodles and whatever else can sidestep the throbbing in my skull and find its way to the page. This is a heartfelt eulogy for the deceased, ghostwritten by its murderer, Facebook Timeline.
- The year began on a tragic note, setting the tone for the twelve months to follow, with the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Eighteen were injured and six killed, including a nine-year-old girl. The shooter was identified as the creepiest dude alive and before the dust had even settled, America’s partisans were already casting blame on one another for the shooting. The murderer’s book collection was raided and analyzed, turning up copies of Mein Kampf, the Communist Manifesto and other controversial (and conflicting) texts, leading to wild speculation that the killer was probably Sarah Palin or the Daily Kos. I guess the guy limited his library to the Dewey Decimal number for Dictatorial Apologetics, unless Danielle Steel and Stieg Larsson were cleared of suspicion thanks to corroborated alibis. When the inevitable and obligatory Nonsense Manifesto was released, we discovered that the dude had filled a few thousand pages with conspiracies about the moon landing and the Blame Game ended in a draw.
- 2011 was indeed the year of the protester, much to the chagrin of people who don’t actually read Time Magazine. What would come to be dubbed “The Arab Spring” began in Tunisia and soon spread across the Middle East and North Africa. Warriors for Democracy took to the streets and used the power of social networking to organize and topple their dictators. Unfortunately, Ben Franklin’s proverbial sheep and wolves had a reservation for three at the Café Theocracy, and the sheep may soon find his victory du jour over the cruel farmer less than savory and a bit undercooked.
- Turmoil in the Arab world intensifies as Egypt’s long-time President, Hosni Mubarak, agrees to step down. The people rejoice in the streets, celebrating their newfound freedom. That is, of course, until they are mowed down by the tanks of a military junta, and stand by, powerless, as Allah stuffs the newly-minted ballot box.
- And then there’s the Madness of Colonel Gaddafi. Need I expound now, or shall we wait ‘til a little later in the year and see how things turn out? Forgive me. That’s the Hangover talking. If the written word were a pizza buffet, we might agree on something. For now I concede defeat. I’m starving.
- Tragedy strikes our luckless protagonist, 2011, once more, as a massive tsunami hits Japan. The devastation is uncanny and the Japanese people barely have time to catch their breath before merciless fate strikes once more with an explosion at the Fukushima nuclear facility. The Japanese work tirelessly to prevent the disaster from becoming the next Chernobyl as the execs of American Big Coal opt for the VIP table dance at Titties Galore because, shit, it’s a celebration.
- Civil War in Libya reaches epic proportions and NATO decides to intervene. A completely unrelated footnote: Libya is the 12th largest producer of oil in the world and provides the NATO allies of France and Britain with a considerable amount of Texas Tea.
- April of 2011 may be the most memorable month for the Average American in a Pre-Timeline World. Amidst the escalating violence in Arab countries, Papal cries for peace and Japan’s dumping of radioactive waste into the ocean, the discerning American Public sifted through the info-sieve and found the real headlines: Prince Edward and Kate Middleton spend millions to get hitched on live TV while the UK economy flounders and President Barack Obama finally proves to the country that Hawaii is, in fact, not a village in Kenya. Disheartened and defeated, half of America retreats to the Creation Science Museum in Glen Rose, Texas to plan their next attack on Really Obvious Common Sense Shit.
- On May 2, Navy SEAL Team 6 stormed Osama Bin Laden’s compound and shot his fucking face off. We could get into the nitty-gritty about political assassination and the Nuremberg trials, but the Hangover informs me that my time is short and I need to cut to the proverbial chase: The Porn. Stacks and stacks of terrorist porn. Porn from floor to ceiling. On VHS.
BREAKING NEWS: Foxnews.com’s 30-day free trial of “Sesame Street EZ Spell” has expired. They have officially confrimed that Obama del Landen has bin kilt.
- The Rapture didn’t happen.
- The Greek government passes austerity measures despite violent protests. Much to the surprise of the Greek government, the violent protesters decided after some discussion not to cease protesting violently. This somehow becomes a boon to both democratic socialism and American right wing punditry simultaneously as, all the while, Germany wrings its hands and beats its head against the wall to the driving techno-beat. Dumm Dumm Dumm!
- Sending conspiracy theories flying in all directions like a shrapnel bomb of bullshit, Glenn Beck retires/gets fired/quits/steps down from his position as head of Fox News’s UnAmerican Activities Committee and Archbishop of the Wallbuilders Church of “History.” He then flees to the internet where people can pay $19.95 a month to find out how much George Washington hated commies. In his stead, Fox News hires snarky “libertarian” Greg Gutfeld to host a show called The Five, the premise of which seems to be Bob Beckel being gangbanged by lunatics.
- British tabloid, News of the World, gets busted for phone hacking, and NewsCorp ringmaster Rupert Murdoch gets called into court. The paper shuts down, but Murdoch is free to return to his lair and work on his scheme to make Americans hoard incandescent light bulbs.
- The space shuttle Atlantis makes its final landing, marking the end of American manned spaceflight. This pisses off conservatives, who have decided that expensive government programs and scientific knowledge are only disposable when they’re in charge. China lol’ed, Putin got a KGBoner the size of Stalin’s bodycount and Amy Winehouse died. NASA Space Transportation System (1981-2011)
- After months of debate, slander, compromise, ideological mania and delaying the inevitable, Congress passes a shitty deal to prevent the US from defaulting on its debt. The result is a crippling credit downgrade for the country and weeks of Charles Krauthammer’s subtle eyerolls on Fox’s daily panel discussions.
- I’ve neglected thus far to comment on the ongoing antics of the GOP campaign trail for the 2012 Presidency. “Are you serious?” retorts the Hangover. I’ll keep it brief. On August 13th, Rep. Michele Bachmann wins the Iowa straw poll, terrifying millions and begging the question: Should someone who believes the Earth is 6,000 years old really be trusted with nuclear launch codes? Jokes abound that the notoriously anti-gay candidate may herself be “gay married,” so to speak, but that does little to calm the disconcertion wrought by the apparent fact that the American electorate is about as discerning as a horny frat boy at last call on Valentine’s Day.
- Iran manages to get their first nuclear power plant up and running. Despite this complicated and impressive technological advancement, they still refuse to believe that homosexuals exist. Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia decides that it’s kinda-sorta okay for women to vote… as long as they don’t operate a motor vehicle or handle cucumbers, the sexiest of all things that can be successfully pickled.
- Protesters seize Zuccotti Park as the Occupy Wall Street movement begins in Manhattan. “See my article on the subject: The Digital Divide and the Great Big Whatever),” begs the Hangover.
- Restaurant chain Hooters sues Twin Peaks over the theft of “trade secrets.” Perhaps Victoria should call up the Hooters execs and inform them that it’s not really a secret.
- Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical imam often called “the bin Laden of the Internet,” is spirited away to Paradise by flying robots in Yemen. Much like the death of bin Laden in May, the assassination raises questions that the Hangover has absolutely no interest in addressing at this juncture. BC Powder and milk thistle go down the hatch, dutifully preparing themselves for a trip to the toilet and their final resting place in the gills of three-eyed fish in the Trinity River.
- The 700 Club doesn’t much like divorce. In fact, the 700 Club doesn’t like much of anything at all. But Pat “Gay Witches Cause Earthquakes” Robertson, the 700 Club’s goldthirsting ringmaster, says that it’s A-OK to leave your wife for another woman if she has Alzheimer’s. Why? Because it counts as a “kind of death” and it’s not like the braindead bitch is gonna know the difference anyway, amirite? Now give God some money.
- The defense attorneys for convicted murderer Amanda Knox employ what is being called “The Jessica Rabbit Defense,” in which her lawyers told the jury that Knox, like Rabbit, is “not bad, she’s just drawn that way.” The jury seemed to have a positive reaction to the idea of sexy American cartoons finally becoming involved in an otherwise boring international murder trial. This leaves the prosecution no choice but to give up on their lame evidence and testimonies and instead appeal to the jury’s taste for cool stuff that rules:
- Sarah Palin finally declares that she is not running for the Presidency and is simply promoting the ramblings of her ghostwriter, now available in clearance sections across America (shelved appropriately next to The Audacity of Hope.)
- Colonel Gaddafi is killed by rebel forces. This was expected and a long time coming, so I decided to spice it up with Hollywood flair and toss in a few zombies to make sure you’re still awake 2000+ words into this ridiculous article.
- Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dies of cancer. The world lost an incredible innovator. That cannot be denied. But every person on my Facebook Newsfeed suddenly became a Volkswagon-sporting liberal video editor that day, eulogizing the man like a demigod for giving them the ability to play Angry Birds while driving.
- Coinciding perfectly with the holiday dedicated to fear and horror, it was declared that the world’s population hit 7 billion on Halloween night. If only they could announce on Thanksgiving that we had the ability to feed them all.
- The Rapture didn’t happen, again.
- I love everything I create as though it were my own child. I’m proud of it for, like, ten minutes then I realize what I’ve done and leave it in the dumpster behind the Sizzler in the middle of the night. That said, they don’t pay me to write this stuff, so I’m taking this opportunity to shamelessly point out that my e-book of short fiction, Anything But Lonely: stories about the end of the world, came out in October. You can download it for free here.
- Conrad Murray is convicted of manslaughtering pop icon Michael Jackson. For details on this matter, the Hangover refers you to TMZ.com.
- Dear Congress, pizza is not a vegetable. Tomatoes are fruits not vegetables. Therefore pizza is a fruit.
- Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, is accused of rampant sexual abuse of kids over a period of several decades. Head coach Joe Paterno allegedly knew about at least one incident and decided not to bother calling the cops. Penn State fans were outraged and tore apart the streets of State College, PA in a full-scale riot because WHO CARES FOOTBALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!111!!
- Presidential hopeful (and sadly, my governor) Rick Perry infamously gives a debate speech about something, but I completely forgot what it was. Oops.
- Black Friday erupts into violence. The Hangover agrees with my Ego that you should check out my article on the subject called When Jesus Returns Will They Give Him Store Credit?
- I nearly forgot about the GOP race. Early in December, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and idiotic sloganeer, Herman Cain, ditches his bid for the Presidency amidst sex scandals so numerous that they could make Anthony Weiner confidently re-open his Twitter account. Upon leaving the press conference where he announced the end of his campaign, he muttered something about “999” and forgot where he parked his car.
- Acclaimed author and columnist, Christopher Hitchens, succumbs to cancer. I have great respect for the man and his work, and he will be missed. But let Hitchens’s death by cancer be a lesson to all of you. If you smoke incessantly and drink a bottle of Johnnie Walker every day, it is very probable, if not inevitable, that you will become a famous author.
- In lesser memoriam, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il, finally kicked the bucket. Despite his disgraceful human rights violations and seeming hatred for all living things, he will be tongue-in-cheek-ly missed, as the living dictators of the world do not come close to being as sadly humorous in their deluded, evil madness. Unless, of course, Ahmadinejad acquires a taste for Westerns, Hennessy and dressing like Steven Seagal.
And this brings us full-circle to the National Defense Authorization Act, the bipartisan legislation that effectively repeals the 4th and 5th Amendments (or at least the tatters that the Patriot Act left in its wake) in its effort to further the unwinnable War on Terror. The Hangover is becoming rather insistent now, so I beg you to look it up for yourself. It is atrocious legislation, and it’s equally as unnecessary as it is unconstitutional. I’d tell you to write a letter of dissent to your representative’s paper shredder, but it’s already too late. Of all the great losses we’ve seen in the cursed and tragic life of the year 2011, the death of the Bill of Rights may be the most painful. At the close of a year marred by unprecedented natural disasters, riots, wars, protests, assassinations and destruction, our final act was to kill American liberty as mercilessly as Timeline killed your weekend. But I don’t want to end this on a dissonant down-note.
I look back on 2011 as a stepping stone. The stepping stone may be six inches submerged in a rancid bog, but it leads to higher ground. Big changes are coming, and I don’t just mean on the world stage. Everyone I speak to seems to have crawled their way out of 2011 alive, intact and freshly motivated. Poorer, maybe, but not lacking in ambition. 2012 is shaping up to be a year of recovery and success. Not in the economy, perhaps, but in the human will and spirit. So I raise my glass of Alka-Seltzer and vitamin B to the Year 2011, ugly but misunderstood, tragic but hopeful, and I look forward to seeing all of you on the higher ground.